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Insulin injection basics

Information on how to inject insulin. Learn how the timing of insulin shots can affect blood glucose levels.

As you consider starting on insulin, it is important to understand insulin injection basics. How are they injected?  Is there more than one way to do it? Where do they get injected? What kind of needles are used?  This article is just an introduction to insulin injection but you will find a lot of other resources to help you on this site.

So what device is used to inject insulin?

Syringes were once a common way to inject insulin, however insulin pens are often preferred due to ease of use and increased accuracy. Insulin pumps are also being used as effective insulin delivery devices. Your diabetes healthcare team will give you specific information about which type of device you should use and how to best meet blood glucose targets.

Where is insulin injected?

You will learn how injections in different parts of the body can affect blood glucose levels. For example, insulin works fastest and more consistently when injected into the abdomen and therefore is the preferred site for injections. 

It is important to change the exact location of where insulin is injected in order to avoid the build-up of fat under the skin. This can affect the absorption of insulin if it is used as an injection site. It is usually best to inject in the same general body area at specific times, to gain similar blood glucose levels. So for example, before-supper insulin might always be injected in the leg but at different injection sites, and before-breakfast insulin might always be injected in the abdomen, but again at different injection sites at least 2.5 cm from the previous site.

And what about needles?

Needles come in various sizes ranging from 4-12mm, but based on skin thickness, most people do not need larger than the 4 to 6 mm in length.

Talk to your diabetes healthcare team together about the type and pattern of injections that will work best for you. Visit the section on this website 'Forum for Injection Technique' to learn more about recommendations for best practice in injection technique.

About Diabetes Care

Diabetes Care Community is the author of articles on a wide range of diabetes topics. All of these articles are written to a high standard of quality. They are reviewed for accuracy with health care professionals and, wherever possible, will adhere to Diabetes Canada's 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines. It is our wish that you find our articles helpful. We welcome your feedback and comments.

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