Information about the care, treatment and management of diabetes
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Providing care for people with diabetes in the West Suffolk area

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Managing your Diabetes

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Starting on Insulin

  Who needs insulin?

  How will I administer the insulin?

  Does it hurt?

  When do I inject insulin?

  Where do I keep my insulin?

  Do I have to change what I eat when I start Insulin?

  Can I still drive my car?

  What about exercise?

  What about hypos (low blood sugars)?

Who needs insulin?

The usual reasons for needing insulin are:

  • newly diagnosed type1 diabetes
  • inadequate control on maximum dose of tablets
  • developing diabetes during pregnancy (Gestational.)

Insulin is usually given twice a day either with or before breakfast and with or before evening meal.

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How will I administer the insulin?

Insulin can be administered using a conventional syringe or using a specially designed pen device. There are a number of pen devices that can be used to make the injections much easier. You will be able to look at these with one of the specialist nurses and work out which one would suit you best.

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Does it hurt?

Injecting insulin is easy and on the whole injecting insulin is relatively painless. The needles used for injecting insulin are very fine and since they are 'disposable' they cause a lot less pain than in the days when needles were re-used until blunt!

You will be advised which area to use to inject your insulin and also advised to change your needle at least once daily. Should you find the injection painful or you are experiencing bruising after injection, then try placing an ice cube for a few seconds on the site before injecting.

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When do I inject insulin?

Mixtures of insulin are usually injected twice daily, either before or at breakfast and evening meals.

Short acting insulins (e.g Actrapid, Humulin S, Novorapid and Humalog) are sometimes used three times a day with long acting insulin at bed time.

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Where do I keep my insulin?

Spare insulin should be stored in the fridge but the current pen you are using can be out of the fridge; but not in direct sunlight i.e. windowsill or above a radiator.

DO NOT:

Use insulin that is out of date.

Use insulin that is lumpy or a strange colour.

Freeze your insulin.

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Do I have to change what I eat when I start Insulin?

If you are newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic then you would be advised to follow a healthy eating plan. If you are transferring from tablets to insulin, then you should continue to eat healthily as normal remember to include a portion of starchy food at each meal. (i.e. bread, potatoes cereal pasta or rice) It would be advisable to have a bedtime snack especially if you have an early evening meal. (This could be a piece of toast, ryvita, small bowl of cereal)

REMEMBER eat at regular intervals and do not miss meals. Donít overeat. Keep an eye on your weight.

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Can I still drive my car?

Yes, although you must inform the DVLA that your treatment for diabetes has changed to insulin. You must also inform your car insurance company. Refer to the separate leaflet on driving and diabetes for more information.

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What about exercise?

It is advisable to try and incorporate some exercise each day. Not only will this help keep your blood sugar stable, it will help your weight, circulation and general wellbeing.

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What about hypos (low blood sugars)?

It is possible that your blood sugar may drop too low and you will experience physical signs to show this is happening. You may start to feel shaky, sweaty, hungry, dizzy, tired or confused. This is your body's way of letting you know that you need a boost of sugar as your supply is running out.

You should carry one of the following with you;

  • Dextrosol or Lucozade sports sweets
  • Sugar Cubes
  • Small bottle of Lucozade or Coke
  • Small carton of fruit juice

Take 2-3 sweets or similar if you have these symptoms and then follow it up with some bread or 2-3 biscuits or a meal if it happens just prior to it.

For more information refer to the leaflet/web page on hypoglycaemia.

 

Author: Liz Hartley

 

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West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust, Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP33 2QZ, tel:01284 713000