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Insulin? But I have type 2!

With type 2 diabetes, many people think, "take a pill, watch your diet and all will be well". Right? Then, out of the blue, your doctor mentions insulin.

Insulin is secreted from a healthy-functioning pancreas in response to food or stress—whenever your body needs to get glucose into your cells. In doing so, it helps keep a healthy level of glucose in your blood. Without a doubt, insulin is the most natural, easiest way to keep your blood sugar in an optimal range.

Diabetes is a progressive disease. Over time, your pancreas will make more mistakes, even when you take care of yourself. As a result, many Canadians living with type 2 diabetes require insulin to keep their numbers in line. The better you care for yourself, the healthier you'll be, but your diabetes still wants to win the blood sugar battle. There comes a time when you and your doctor need to fight back with insulin.

Even though insulin is good news for your health, there may be some things you're wondering about:

  • Why do I have to take it in a shot? Insulin is a protein chain. If it were swallowed in a pill, stomach acid would digest it like a piece of cheese. Instead, it's injected through a syringe or insulin pen directly into fatty tissue—any place you can pinch an inch—such as your stomach, back of an arm, buttocks, thigh or hip. Today's needles are thin and coated with silicone, so they're barely noticeable and definitely not painful.
  • Can someone living with type 2 diabetes wear an insulin pump? Definitely! Today's insulin pumps are easy to use and safe. They deliver insulin in a way that uses less while still giving you freedom and flexibility in your lifestyle.
  • Why are there so many kinds of insulin? Different types of insulin have varying peaking times and work in your body for different lengths of time. These choices allow you and your healthcare professional to find what works best for you.
  • Will I get complications from insulin? No. Insulin is a treatment. Out-of-control diabetes is what causes complications.
  • What are the side effects of insulin? Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is the most serious risk of taking insulin. Checking your blood sugar, educating yourself and having a fast-acting carbohydrate nearby are your best defenses.

Just because you live with type 2 and use insulin doesn't mean you have changed your status to type 1 diabetes. Now you're simply "insulin requiring" instead of "insulin dependent". 

If you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, talk to your healthcare professional. And while you're at it, make sure to thank them for recommending insulin!

 

By Karen Flanagan, MA, RD, CDE
Karen Flanagan is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who previously worked with pump users through Roche Diabetes Care in the U.S. She has been wearing an insulin pump since 1992.

References:

American Diabetes Association (2004). Insulin Administration. Retrieved from: https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/suppl_1/s106. Accessed May 14 2021.

American Diabetes Association (2003). Clarifying the role of insulin in type 2 diabetes management. Retrieved from: https://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/21/1/14. Accessed May 14 2021.

American Diabetes Association (2019). Insulin initiation and titration in patients with type 2 diabetes. Retrieved from: https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/32/2/104. Accessed May 14 2021.

Diabetes Canada (2018). Thinking of starting insulin. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/blood-glucose-insulin/thinking-of-starting-insulin. Accessed May 14 2021.

Diabetes Educator (2020). Insulin injection know- how: Learning how to inject insulin. Retrieved from: https://www.diabeteseducator.org/docs/default-source/legacy-docs/_resources/pdf/general/Insulin_Injection_How_To_AADE.pdf. Accessed May 14 2021.

Healthline (2020). What are the pros and cons of switching to insulin for type 2 diabetes? Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/insulin-switch-pros-cons. Accessed May 14 2021.

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