Where is the Best Place to Inject Insulin as a Diabetic?

Where is the Best Place to Inject Insulin as a Diabetic?

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. It acts as a key that unlocks the body’s cells to let glucose enter so it can be used for energy. It is produced by the pancreas and released into the blood stream when blood glucose levels rise, such as after eating.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body is no longer able to product insulin naturally so exogenous insulin is required. Some people living with type 2 diabetes may also require exogenous insulin.

Insulin is usually administered with an insulin pen. This device contains an insulin cartridge with a small disposable needle that attaches to the top. The pen allows the user to set the correct amount of insulin to administer by setting a dial on the device before injecting. Diabetics will usually administer two types of insulin - rapid acting or bolus insulin and slow release or basal insulin. A type 1 diabetic will usually inject rapid insulin multiples a time and slow release insulin once a day. Given the amount of daily injecting, it's important to be aware of the best injection sites and the potential consequences of over-injecting in a particular site. So what is the best injecting strategy?

Insulin should be injected into the layer of fat directly under the skin, known as subcutaneous tissue. The four main insulin injection sites include the abdomen, upper buttocks, outer thighs and upper arms. All of these areas have a layer of fat for quick absorption with few nerve endings.

The abdomen allows for the quickest absorption but some people find it uncomfortable. Typically a section of the fat tissue on the abdomen will be pinched with the fingers when administering insulin. This may be more difficult if the person is very lean. Similarly with the upper arms, administering into fatty tissue around the tricep area halfway between the shoulder and elbow is common. The positioning of this site may be awkward for self administration. The outer thighs allow for easy access but can cause discomfort if exercising afterwards. The upper buttocks is another good option but some may find it challenging to reach.

It's a good idea to experiment with the recommended injection sites to find what works best for you including your ability to self administer in the potentially more awkward areas to reach. This also allows you to be comfortable changing injection site if the circumstance arises where it's not suitable to inject in your preferred area at that given moment. This is may be as a result of your clothing on a particular day or the social setting.

Another important thing to consider is rotation. Rotating your injection sites will help prevent lipohypertrophy which is when fatty lumps and bumps appear on the surface of the skin. This can also cause insulin to not be absorbed consistently. It's a common side effect of injecting into the same site over a long period of time. To reduce the risk, alternate injection sites regularly. This can mean moving between different sites or moving slightly within the same site. For example, if injecting into the left upper buttock, move the needle slightly to the left or right next time. You can then move slightly up or down for the next injection and then onto the right buttock later on.

Practicing how to inject in each site will take time but it will gradually become second nature and over time you will find a rotation pattern that works for you. Be sure to consult with your diabetic professional before changing your insulin administration procedures.

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