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Just how common is it for diabetics to skip insulin injections? Here's the truth

by , 09 January 2017
Just how common is it for diabetics to skip insulin injections? Here's the truth
If you're diabetic, you know that omitted or forgotten insulin injections are a very important contributing factor to poor glycaemic control. So just how common is it for diabetics to skip their injections?

According to a recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care, more than half of people who need to inject insulin to keep their diabetes under control skip an injection every now and then.

The reasons behind diabetics skipping injections, according to the study, include things such as embarrassment and pain. The study also noted that reasons varied depending on whether people have type 1 or 2 diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone that helps diabetics regulate their blood sugar levels

According to the study, approximately one-fourth of people who suffer from diabetes – whether it be type 1 or 2 – have to take insulin to keep their condition under control. Insulin is essentially a hormone that helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
When you’re short on insulin, your body is unable to use sugar to fuel your muscles. There are only two ways to take insulin – through an insulin pump or injections.
Mark Peyrot, lead author of the study and professor of sociology at Loyola University Maryland as well as assistant professor at John Hopkins University School of Medicine both in Baltimore in the USA, reported, “More and more people will be taking insulin, and it's really important that they learn to manage this powerful medication effectively.”

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Skipping insulin injections can put people with type 1 or 2 diabetes at risk of serious complications

So just how vital is it for diabetics to make sure they never miss an insulin injection? For people with the autoimmune disease type 1 diabetes, which occurs when your body stops producing its own insulin and depends on injections to survive, it’s incredibly important.
Those with type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, can get away with skipping the odd injection as their bodies are still able to produce some natural insulin. However, they’re unable to produce enough, and may sometimes be resistant to insulin and therefore require more than what their bodies can produce.
When you skip an injection, your blood sugar levels elevate. This is dangerous because persistent high blood sugar can boost your risk of more serious health complications, such as kidney failure and blindness.

Study reveals that more than half of diabetics who need to inject insulin skip injections

For the study, Peyrot and his team of colleagues analysed 502 people with diabetes who used insulin to manage their condition. Subjects were required to complete a survey on the internet.
Researchers found that 57% of the subjects said they’d intentionally missed a dose of insulin, while 20% confessed that they regularly skipped injections.
Peyrot observed that people who missed doses tended to have type 2 diabetes, be younger, had completed more schooling, had a lower income, didn’t follow a balanced diet, complained of injection pain, were embarrassed by the need for injections, felt that injections interfered with their day-to-day life and were required to take more injections.
Among those with type 1 diabetes, most said that their main reason for skipping an injection was not following a healthy diet. Peyrot noted that this isn’t always negative, as people who get too much insulin are at heightened risk of hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar.

Diabetics should be aware that missed insulin doses is a very important issue in the treatment of diabetes

Peyrot said that he feels there’s a disconnect between diabetes sufferers and their doctors. He explained, “Even when patients ask, providers might not be giving them enough help in overcoming modifiable risk factors. Physicians need to be alert. Patients may tell you their problem rather than ask for help. It's a hint.”
Katie Weinger, investigator of behavioral and mental health research at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston in the USA and co-author of an accompanying study in the journal, supported Peyrot’s points. She said, “Missed insulin doses is a really important issue in the treatment of diabetes.”
She added, “Diabetes is a very challenging disease. You need to have a well-organised, unchaotic life in order to fit diabetes into it smoothly. And, for older people who've lived one way for 50 or 60 years, to have to change lifelong habits and take all these medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and their heart, and then you put insulin into the mix - it can be overwhelming.”
If you’re diabetic, you don’t have to sacrifice your quality of life. The key is to find a healthy, happy balance between living well and treating your condition.

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