When a healthcare practitioner recommends that a patient with diabetes should add insulin to their oral medications, the response is often one of dismay. Such patients often feel that the move to insulin means they have in some way failed in their diabetes self-management.
This is usually not the case at all. The fact is that people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes because their bodies lose their ability to use their own insulin, and in time, the pancreas may make less and less insulin. In the beginning, a healthy living program in conjunction with oral medications may be able to keep blood glucose levels within targets. And for some people, insulin may be prescribed right at the time of diagnosis, with our without oral medications.
However, for those prescribed oral medications at the start, they need to work with the body’s own insulin to be effective. For many people with type 2 diabetes, eventually the body’s own insulin supply drops to a point where oral medications can’t do their job. Insulin must then be added to keep blood glucose levels within targets. So the bottom line is that your body needs insulin, whether you make your own or get it from an injection.
It is no one’s fault but is simply one of the ways in which type 2 diabetes may progress.
An array of emotions
Recognize that you may have a very negative reaction to the news. There may be feelings that it isn’t fair after trying so hard to follow the rules - you've been eating healthier, exercising more, and taking your oral medication, so why did this happen? There may be fear that moving to insulin will mean the situation is serious. Some people are also afraid that insulin injections will be painful. Read Do insulin injections hurt - get the facts.
Be reassured that insulin is just another tool in the diabetes management tool-box. Insulin is a natural hormone so it is very safe. It can be extremely effective at managing blood glucose levels, and you are likely to feel better within a very short period as your blood glucose levels get to their target levels.
Today’s insulin injection needles are very small and inject into parts of the body that aren’t highly sensitive to pain. Many people who take insulin say that it is less painful than blood glucose monitoring using a fingerprick, which you are likely already doing.
If you have concerns or questions about a move to insulin, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or the diabetes educator on the diabetes healthcare team. They will be happy to provide the information you need.
You may want to check out our video, Insulin: Nothing to Fear.
You can also ask questions of other people, who may understand your anxieties and be able to reassure you. Go to the Community Discussion Forums of the Diabetes Care Community.