Diabetes type 1

Insulin: doing injections everyday

The young people we talked to tell us what it is like to inject insulin every day, the problems they've had and how they've coped with them.

Where and how to inject
Young people are taught by specialist diabetes nurses and doctors how and where to inject. Arms, legs and the stomach are all parts of the body recommended for injection. Most people said that their preferred place was the stomach. But they also said that it's important to vary the place where they inject, over a wide area. They said that injecting in the same place can cause lumps or other changes, called hyperlipotrophy, to develop under the skin. Your healthcare team can teach you how to recognise these changes. Injecting into the areas that have developed this problem is usually completely painless but the insulin may then be absorbed unevenly, which makes blood sugar much harder to control.

Some young people who were small children when diagnosed said that they have grown up with doing daily injections and thought it was normal. Other children were scared of needles at first and their parents had to inject them, to begin with.
Young people have different opinions as to whether insulin injections hurt or not. Some said that the needles they use are so thin that they don't feel it, but others said it depends on how relaxed and comfortable they are at the time of the injection. Several young people commented that it's much easier and painless to do the injections themselves because they know their own body. Most young people said that it is down to practice and that 'practice makes it perfect'. The people we talked to said that doing their own injections made them feel in control and gave them a feeling of independence. 
Getting used to injecting everyday
It could take a long time to get used to injecting every day. One young woman diagnosed two years ago still has some difficulty when it comes to doing her injections. The diabetes nurse recommended a device called PenMate where she presses a trigger which shoots the needle into the skin. One young woman remembered that her mother or grandmother used to give her one out of the two daily injections when she was still asleep. She was in her teen years before starting doing her own injections.
Most of the young people we talked to said that injections become part of your daily routine like brushing your teeth or brushing your hair. We interviewed one teenager who has had more serious difficulties and needed professional help. Her parents had been doing her injections since she was four years old and it was very difficult for her to take over because of a fear of needles. She saw a psychiatrist for two years to overcome her fear.
Forgetting to do an injection
The young people we talked to said that there have been instances when they have forgotten to do their insulin injections. They said that it is not always easy to remember to do them. Reasons included: being in a hurry to go out with friends, being too tired to remember, finding it difficult to do them at school break time, not wanting to carry the kit with them, having been ill, etc. Some young people said that they need a lot of reminding and that their mothers do most of the 'nagging'.

One young man who has had Type 1 diabetes since childhood started to miss injections when he became older because he found the routine too boring and that it restricted his social life.

Doing an injection in public places
Young people have different attitudes when it comes to do insulin injections in public places. Most young people told us that they have no problem about doing them in restaurants, school/university canteen, etc. Other young people find it difficult to do it in public places and prefer to go to the toilet or another private place when they are out and about.

Last reviewed November 2014.

Last updated November 2014.

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