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Insulin therapy for diabetes: Separating myths from facts

By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 15 September 2021

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Most of us know about the significance of insulin in diabetes management. Many diabetics rely on insulin therapy to manage their blood glucose levels. Nevertheless, sometimes insulin has become associated with certain myths, most of which are not true. Experts say that these myths can negatively influence people from making informed decisions about whether this potentially lifesaving therapy is right for them. The article takes a closer look at some of these misconceptions about insulin therapy and straightens them out with facts.

Common myths and facts about insulin therapy

Myth: Insulin therapy doesn’t work 

Fact: The myth can be put down to people who don't adhere to the proper timing and dosage of insulin. According to diabetologists, insulin therapy is one of the most effective treatment options for lowering blood glucose levels. The synthetic insulin used these days to maintain blood glucose levels is very similar to the one manufactured naturally by the body. As a result, it is as effective as natural insulin.

Myth: Insulin therapy causes weight gain

Fact: This is not exactly a myth. While it is true that some people with type 2 diabetes put on weight after they begin insulin therapy, it doesn’t imply that the insulin is inducing weight gain. The increase in weight can be attributed to the fact that insulin is helping the body process blood glucose more efficiently. In most cases, the weight gain is temporary and tends to level out over a period of time.

Myth: Insulin therapy is addictive

Fact: One can never get addicted to insulin. Unlike an addictive substance, insulin is a hormone that the body needs for various biological functions. In healthy individuals, it is produced naturally by the pancreas. However, people with diabetes require insulin therapy to maintain the optimum levels of the hormone. Injecting insulin multiple times a day does not cause one to become addicted to it.

Myth: Insulin injections can hurt

Fact: Many people dread the thought of injecting insulin multiple times a day. However, contrary to popular perception, insulin injections are relatively painless. In fact, they are less painful than finger pricks that are used to measure blood glucose levels. People who are averse to daily syringe usage can also opt for injector pens that inject insulin into the subcutaneous tissue (the tissue between the skin and muscle) painlessly.

Myth: Insulin therapy leads to hypoglycemia

Fact: It is true that insulin therapy can significantly lower blood glucose levels. A prolonged episode of very low blood glucose level (hypoglycemia) can cause a loss of consciousness. While hypoglycemia is possible, it happens rarely owing to the introduction of newer and long-acting insulins. The risk can be further minimized by taking the insulin as per the physician’s recommendation.

People with type 2 diabetes generally have a lower risk of hypoglycemia than those with type 1 diabetes. However, they should be aware of the symptoms of hypoglycemia - anxiety, shaky hands, sweating, and an urge to eat. Consuming a small amount of sugary foods or beverages can help reverse the lower blood glucose levels.

Myth: Insulin therapy can cause life-threatening complications

Fact: This is inaccurate. Diabetes can cause several debilitating and life-threatening complications like retinopathy (eye damage), neuropathy (nerve damage), nephropathy (kidney or renal damage), cardiovascular disease, foot damage, skin conditions, etc. Often, these complications arise from disregarding medical advice or delaying diabetes treatment, including insulin therapy. Doctors recommend insulin therapy, along with an active lifestyle and healthy diet, to prevent these complications.

Myth: Insulin prescription means one has failed in managing blood glucose levels

Fact: Type 2 diabetes is a progressive metabolic disease. Over time, the pancreas becomes unable to produce enough insulin for the body. Even regular exercise, dietary changes, and oral medicines become less effective in bringing blood glucose levels under control. However, this does not mean that one has failed in managing diabetes. This means that these treatment options are no longer sufficient, and it is time to include insulin therapy as part of the regimen to ensure that the blood glucose levels stay in a healthy range.

Myth: Insulin therapy means multiple shots daily

Fact: This is not always the case. A physician may prescribe long-acting insulin shots that are taken once a day. Long-acting shots are usually enough to maintain blood glucose levels. However, if the levels rise tremendously after a meal, then one may need to take insulin multiple times a day.

Myth: Insulin therapy will continue forever

Fact: The duration of insulin therapy can vary for different individuals. Some people may require insulin temporarily, such as during pregnancy, whereas others may need to stay on it for an indefinite period of time. Lifestyle changes also play an important role. Those who lose weight, work out on a regular basis and follow a strict diet may no longer require insulin.

Takeaway

Insulin therapy is an effective treatment option for diabetics struggling with elevated blood glucose levels. Although the therapy has multiple proven benefits, a number of misconceptions have come to be associated with it. Since a lot of people tend to get influenced by these misconceptions, it is important to clear them with facts. With the right information, people with diabetes will be empowered to make better and informed decisions.

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