Joslin Answers Your Questions

Joslin Diabetes Center experts answer commonly asked questions about diabetes monitoring, treatment, self-care, meal planning, and more.
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Topic: Insulin and Diabetes Pills
Question: My doctor has been talking to me about taking insulin, which is the last thing I want to do. How can I avoid this?
Answer: A good first step is to think about why you don't want to take insulin.

Are you worried about side effects? Or maybe you hate the thought of taking an injection? These all are very common concerns. While it can seem frightening at first to hear that you may need to start taking insulin, it may help to know that insulin is a natural substance and is exactly the same as the insulin people already have in their body. The good news about insulin is that—unlike many other diabetes medications—there are practically no side effects, other than low blood glucose.

Many people think that needing to take insulin means that they have failed to manage their diabetes or that their diabetes is getting worse. We know that the most common reason for taking insulin is that the diabetes has progressed, and the person's pancreas is making less insulin on its own.

What determines whether your diabetes is more serious is not whether you are taking insulin, but whether your A1C is in a safe range. If you take insulin and your A1C is 7.0 or less, you will have about a 40 percent less chance of having diabetes complications than someone who isn't taking insulin, but whose A1C is 8. Chances are, you've been taking diabetes pills, along with following a meal plan and doing some physical activity, but these treatments are not keeping your A1C at your goal (usually 7.0 or less). That probably is why your doctor is suggesting insulin—one of the best treatments available to manage your diabetes. (Learn more about the A1C test.)

You may be worried that taking insulin by injection is going to hurt. Thanks to advances in technology, we have new methods for taking insulin, such as "pens," pumps, and other devices. Taking insulin does not hurt because today's syringe and insulin pen needles are much thinner and shorter than needles of the past. The shots that you may have received in your doctor's office typically use a thicker, longer needle. Finally, be sure to share your concerns with your doctor or diabetes educator. They can work with you to help you overcome your fears and help you choose the best insulin delivery option for you. Be sure to focus on the positive aspects of taking insulin: You'll likely find that you actually will feel better and will have more energy than you used to have. You also may have more flexibility in terms of when, what, and how much you eat, as well.

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