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Myths and Misconceptions About Insulin Therapy

article by Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

It’s unfair. You followed your doctor’s orders -- ate a healthy diet and exercised -- yet you still need insulin for your diabetes. Many people with diabetes who need insulin view it with concern, fear, or even panic. If you feel this way, here is a discussion of some myths and misconceptions about insulin therapy, which may make you feel more comfortable about starting this treatment.

Myth/misconception -- Needing insulin means that you failed. For instance, you should have done more -- lost more weight or exercised more often -- to control your diabetes.

Reality -- Needing insulin to control your blood glucose is not a sign of failure. Diabetes is a progressive disease, so at some point most people require additional or stronger medication to keep their blood glucose under control.


Myth/misconception -- You won’t be able to take insulin if you are afraid of needles or can’t stand the pain of injections.

Reality -- Most people who require insulin become quickly accustomed to injecting themselves. Needles used to inject insulin are small and produce little pain.


Myth/misconception -- Using insulin seems too demanding. It must be administered on schedule and at precise dosages.

Reality --With a little practice, most people are able to handle their insulin regimen with confidence. Many people find insulin pens, which contain a premeasured dose of insulin, are a simpler alternative to traditional syringes.


Myth/misconception -- Taking insulin will restrict your lifestyle. You won’t be able to be as free or spontaneous as before, and this will make traveling, dining in restaurants, and participating in other leisure activities more difficult.

Reality -- It’s true that taking insulin does require balancing your medication with your diet and leisure activities, but the availability of various short- and long-acting forms of insulin can easily accommodate most lifestyles.


Myth/misconception -- There are too many risks to taking insulin. Doesn’t insulin cause hypoglycemia? What about weight gain? It looks like the drug might do more harm than good.

Reality -- If too much insulin is taken or a meal is skipped, insulin can cause blood glucose to drop too low (hypoglycemia). This is less common in people with type 2 diabetes than it is in those with type 1 diabetes.

Modest weight gain is possible with insulin therapy, though it can be offset with regular exercise and reducing calorie intake. For people with type 2 diabetes, adding the drug metformin (Glucophage) helps control weight gain. Uncontrolled diabetes is definitely not the way to lose weight.

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician.


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