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Challenges in injecting insulin

A challenge with injecting insulin, especially at the beginning, can be the fear or pain of the injection. Administering it can also be difficult if, for example, hand motor skills or vision is impaired.

Choosing the right equipment makes a difference. If you have challenges with carrying out your insulin therapy, talk about them with your nurse and try to think about suitable aids or tools together. Try to set aside enough time for injecting and find a peaceful place to do it.

Due to the initial shock of having diabetes, it may take some time before you manage to learn how to take the injection. You may also find that you don’t remember what has been discussed at the appointment. Everyone also learns in their own way and at their own pace. It is important to tell your nurse and doctor about the difficulties you are having.

Most of the people starting insulin therapy have a fear of injection. Normally, you learn to live with the fear after the initial anxiety. You should let your nurse know about your fear of injection and pain right at the start so that you can try to find ways to alleviate it together. Options may be an injection port or safety pen needles.

Modern insulin pen needles are quite painless to use. But although the needles are small and thin, injecting insulin may still cause some pain. You are more likely to feel pain, if the needle hits the surface layer of skin or enters deeper into muscle. In some places, injecting may be naturally more painful. You can reduce the pain by the choice of injection site and needle.

Impaired hand motor skills can be a hindrance in such a way that you might not get a proper firm grip on the pen, or the hand strength might not be sufficient to press the plunger. Assistive devices can help to hold the pen firmly, so it's advisable to ask the nurse for assistance. It's beneficial to make use of any assistive tools you already have. By trying out different options, you can find the injection device that's easiest to use. Despite all this, you might still need assistance from someone else to administer the insulin. Even then, it's essential to know how to inject the insulin yourself.

If you have a visual impairment, there are insulin pens, which provide audible feedback for each unit adjustment to help with selecting the dose. Insulin packages have text in Braille, and some insulin pens include markings that are easy to identify by touch.

If you use several insulin pens, it may be helpful to stick tape or other materials to them to make it easier to tell them apart. Other aids include insulin needle removers and needle clippers.

It is only human to occasionally forget things. If you find it hard to safely implement your insulin therapy because you are forgetting an injection, you can assess together with your nurse if, for example, a pen with a memory function might help. In practice you can try out different memory tricks, making a note of the insulin injection time and dose or setting reminders on your blood glucose meter or phone.

In order to safely administer insulin injections and implement insulin therapy, a person with memory loss always needs the support of another person.

Depending on the pen and manufacturer’s instructions, a maximum of 80–160 units can be administred from a pre-filled pen. If you want, you can divide a large dose in two and consecutively inject them into two separate injection sites using the same needle. This may make it easier and less unpleasant to administer the injection.

For large insulin doses, you should use a stronger type of insulin. The strengths of the insulin products for sale in Finland are 100, 200 and 300 units/mL.

Updated 30.9.2023