Taking Insulin for Type 2 Diabetes

And How You May Be Able to Avoid It

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For someone who has type 1 diabetes, taking insulin is not an option—it's a life-sustaining necessity. But for a person who develops the condition as an adult, what's known as type 2 diabetes, the need to take insulin isn't always a given. What's more, while insulin certainly is an effective way to treat diabetes, it can have drawbacks. 

If you've recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, here are some things about taking insulin to keep in mind as you and your doctor work together to find the best way to manage your condition.

Insulin and Type 2 Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a small organ located just behind the stomach. This hormone is what makes the sugar, or glucose, from the carbohydrates you eat available to the cells, tissues, and organs of your body to use for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't produce insulin at all, which is why those who have this condition have not choice but to take insulin daily.

With type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, the pancreas stops producing the right amount of insulin or isn't able to use it efficiently. This means glucose can build up in the blood. It also means the body isn't getting the energy it needs. Type 2 diabetes usually affects only adults, but more and more children are being diagnosed with it, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight or obese; a tendency to store fat in the abdomen (when you gain weight you tend to get round in the middle, like an apple, rather than heavier in the hips and thighs); and not getting enough exercise. Type 2 diabetes sometimes runs in families and is more common among certain races, including African-Americans and people of Hispanic or Asian descent. The risk increases after the age of 45. And women who had gestational diabetes while pregnant or who have polycystic ovarian syndrome are at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes include feeling more thirsty and/or hungry than usual; the need to urinate a lot; weight loss; fatigue; blurry vision; frequent infections; and patches of dark skin, particularly in the armpits or on the neck. 

Side Effects of Taking Insulin

Diabetes that isn't treated can lead to a number of serious complications, from heart or kidney problems to nerve damage to hearing impairment. Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to manage it by losing weight, eating a low glycemic diet, getting more exercise, and taking a medication such as metformin (which is sold under a variety of brand names, including Fortamet, Glucophage, Glumetza, and Riomet) to help control the amount of glucose in the blood.

If these measures aren't enough to get blood sugar levels to a normal level, it may be necessary to take insulin. For some people. it may mean injecting 30 to 40 units of long-acting insulin a day with increased amounts of short-acting insulin with meals. One drawback of taking this much insulin is that it can lead to weight gain or make it tough to lose weight. Insulin also can raise your blood pressure, which already may be high due to insulin resistance or weight gain. It can be a tough cycle to break and a very good reason to make those lifestyle changes that might free you from being dependent on insulin and healthier in general overall.

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