Frequently asked questions
Many people worry or feel anxious about starting insulin injections. If you feel this way, you are not alone. It is okay to have questions and concerns about injecting insulin. Here are some common questions, along with their answers. You can also read the NDSS fact sheet: ‘Concerns about starting insulin (type 2 diabetes)’.
1. Does taking insulin mean I now have type 1 diabetes?
No. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are two different conditions, with different causes and management plans. People with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin from the time they are diagnosed. In type 2 diabetes, however, insulin injections may not be required for several years after diagnosis. People with type 2 diabetes may also need other tablets to help manage their diabetes.
2. Does taking insulin mean that my diabetes is worse or that I’ve failed in managing my diabetes?
No. Many people with type 2 diabetes think of insulin as a ‘last resort’ treatment or that needing insulin is a sign of ‘failure’ and that they haven’t managed their diabetes well enough. This is a myth. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body’s ability to make and use insulin declines over time—this is the natural progression of the condition. This means that the type and dose of medications you need to manage your diabetes are also likely to change over time. Needing insulin is not your ‘fault’, and you have not ‘failed’ in any way. Injecting insulin can help you to stay healthier by keeping your blood glucose levels within your target range.
“I’m more satisfied now that I’m doing everything I can to control my diabetes”.
Dave, 63 years old
3. Is taking insulin painful?
Everyone is different. Many people report that they don’t feel their injections, or that it’s less painful than pricking their finger for blood glucose monitoring. But some people find their injections painful. These days, insulin pens have extremely fine needles that can be used with very little discomfort.
“I must admit the very first time when the nurse did it, I’m thinking “oh it’s going to hurt”, and I didn’t feel a thing. I mean, the needles are so small and so short”.
Jane, 69 years old
4. Is taking insulin difficult or complex?
At first, injecting insulin may feel like a daunting task. Injecting insulin does require careful attention, but most people report that it’s quick and easy to do. Your health care team can advise you on how to store insulin, prepare and dispose of insulin pens and syringes, and how to inject insulin. To ease your nerves, ask your health care team if you can practise using the insulin device with their help at the clinic.
5. Will other people see me differently if I start injecting insulin?
Many people worry that starting insulin may cause their family and friends to be more concerned about them or that people may see them as ‘sick’. Other people may not understand what the changes to your diabetes management mean for you. To help your loved ones support you, you might find it useful to talk to them about your new way of managing diabetes. They may be reassured to know that, by taking insulin injections you’re doing your best to look after yourself and are likely to feel better rather than worse, as a result.
6. Will taking insulin make day-to-day life less flexible?
Taking insulin will involve injecting at least once per day or, for some people, several times per day. Like other medications you may take, insulin injections may need to be taken at a set time each day (e.g., before breakfast, or with meals). Most people find that injecting insulin fits in with their usual medication-taking routine.
“I remember thinking “oh what a pain” because I’ve got to remember to take it. But now it’s just part of living, so it’s fine.”
Kate, 32 years old
7. I like to go out for meals with friends. Can I inject insulin in public?
Yes, you can. It’s best to inject somewhere that is clean and comfortable for you. This might be at a restaurant table or in a private room. Everyone is different. Find what works best for you. No one should make you feel uncomfortable about taking your medication when and where you need to.
8. Will taking insulin make me more dependent on my family and friends?
Everyone is different. Many people let their loved ones know they are taking insulin and what to do in case of a hypo. Some people ask their family and friends to actively help them manage their diabetes, for example, by preparing healthy meals and reminding them to take their tablets or insulin. Others prefer to manage their diabetes independently and keep it private. It is up to you if, when and how to involve your family and friends.
9. Will taking insulin make me more dependent on my doctor?
In the first couple of months after starting insulin injections, you may need to visit your diabetes health care team a few times. This is so you can discuss how the insulin is working and learn when/how you can make some simple adjustments to your dose. After this, you will most likely need to visit your health care team every 3–6 months.
10. Does taking insulin mean I won’t be able to travel?
No. You will still be able to travel wherever you want, locally and internationally. Careful planning before travelling is essential, especially if you are travelling for some time. You’ll need to save some luggage space for your diabetes supplies. For example, you will need to pack a letter from your doctor, medication prescriptions, enough insulin and other supplies (e.g. needles, pens and glucose-monitoring equipment) to last the trip, plus some spares. For a smooth trip, talk with your health care team on how to best prepare for travel. More information is available in the NDSS Fact sheet: Travel.
“We are going overseas next month for 6 weeks. I know I’ve got to take double the amount of insulin with me and take my prescriptions. So I just need to organise all of that.”
Morgan, 45 years old
11. Does taking insulin mean I won’t be able to drive?
No. Many people who inject insulin also drive. However, you are required to inform the relevant driving licensing authorities where you live about your diabetes and provide a medical certificate every two years, which indicates your “fitness to drive”. The main risk when driving is having a hypo. Usually, hypos can be prevented by following these tips:
- Before driving, and every two hours on a long trip, check your blood glucose levels. It needs to be above 5mmol/L and stable before you
- Carry a blood glucose meter with you when you drive.
- Carry some carbohydrates (food or drinks) with you and keep extra supplies in your vehicle.
More information is available in the NDSS Fact sheet: Diabetes & Driving.
“I realised that injecting wasn’t the traumatic experience that I expected it to be. I was quite pleasantly surprised actually.”
Michael, 37 years old