More than 10 % of the adult American population are estimated to have diabetes, with one-fifth of the affected remaining unaware of the condition. Insulin is synonymous with diabetes, used for treating both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In most cases, the use of insulin is lifelong in nature and, and main difference in various types of insulin are the manner in which the hormones work and the length of time the insulin controls the blood sugar. Insulin is administered to supplement or perform the role of insulin that is normally produced in a healthy body. As with all medications, insulin comes with the possibility of certain side effects, here is an in-depth look at the side effects.
Overview of insulin and side effects of insulin
Before we look at the side effects of insulin, here is a little more information about insulin. This will help us understand more about the hormone and the manner in which side effects may manifest. Insulin is produced in the body and this controls the blood sugar levels. Insulin is administered to patients with type I and type 2 diabetes for the following outcomes. Type 1 diabetes refers to the condition wherein the body is unable to produce insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes refers to the condition wherein the body does not produce the right level of insulin, or the body is unable to utilize the insulin in the ideal manner.
How does insulin work?
To understand more about the side effects of insulin, it is important to learn about the mechanism of action of insulin. Insulin from the pancreas is released when there is an increase of blood glucose levels. After an individual has consumed food, the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and this moves into the blood stream. When blood glucose levels increase, the pancreas automatically detects this spike and begins secretion of insulin. The mechanism of action of insulin involves causing an increase in the consumption or the uptake of blood glucose by cell membranes and other cells in the body. The glucose taken up by the cells becomes the energy that fuels various actions. It is also stored in the muscles and the liver as glycogen. This way, the blood glucose levels are taken out of the bloodstream, and when the levels of blood glucose return to normal, the pancreas stop secreting insulin. This is the routine process of keeping blood glucose levels at the normal. Diabetes refers to the condition, wherein individuals do not produce sufficient quantities of insulin or the response mechanism does not work as required. Consequently, blood sugar levels increase.
Commonly reported side effects of insulin
Here is a look at the commonly reported side effects of insulin. Blood sugar levels are controlled by insulin and glucagon. The latter works in a manner that is exactly the opposite of insulin. The combination of insulin and glucagon results in the effective control of blood sugar levels. This balancing ensures that the blood glucose levels are not too high or too low, and the cells receive the necessary energy at the right time, and in the required levels. When blood glucose is high, insulin is released, and when blood glucose is low, glucagon is released.
The side effects commonly associated with insulin taken by Type 1 diabetes patients include a sudden increase in weight when the uptake of glucose into the cells is high.
Patients on insulin may also end up with a condition wherein the blood sugar levels dip below desired or required levels, and this results in hypoglycemia. The appearance or formation of rashes, and inflammation at the site of injection also cannot be ruled out. Certain individuals are also likely to experience cough when insulin is inhaled. This is experienced only when this form of insulin is administered. Certain patients may also experience some form of anxiety or depression when on insulin.
Side effects of insulin : how patients end up with hypoglycemia?
The administration of insulin, results in the increased absorption of glucose from the blood stream by the cells ad membranes. Consequently, there is a possibility of a dip in glucose levels, resulting in hypoglycemia. The commonly reported side effects of insulin or the symptoms associated with hypoglycemia include difficulty in speaking, anxiety, confusion, dizzy feelings not attributed to other reasons, extreme tiredness, a pale skin, sudden bouts of seizures, and twitching of the muscles. Certain patients are also known to suddenly lose consciousness. The best methods of ensuring that this does not result in problems is to ensure that the insulin administration is as per a correct schedule.
Prescriptions are typically as per a diagnosis of the need, to ensure that blood glucose levels are maintained consistently. Individuals who are exposed to the risk of hypoglycemia are directed to wear bracelets that assist first responders in managing any eventuality with better outcomes. Triaging with the right kind of information and inputs is always a safe option and this helps control conditions of patients swiftly.
Other possible side effects of insulin include the possibility of complications related to vision. Additionally, individuals are also exposed to the possibility of developing fat necrosis. This is especially in the case of patients who take insulin injections for a long period. This condition refers to the formation of a painful lump below the surface of the skin. This is medically known as growth in the subcutaneous tissue. Various studies int eh past have drawn a comparison of insulin with other medications. For instance, a study that compared the side effects of insulin with other oral medications revealed that patients administered insulin were exposed to the possibility of a heart attack.
Additionally, individuals were also at risk of suffering a stroke, while in some cases patients were at high risk of developing complications in the kidneys. Vision was likely to be affected in some patients when on insulin therapy. However, despite the issues associated with insulin, patients continued with the medication as benefits were more than the effects.
Other side effects of insulin
In addition to the side effects mentioned above, other side effects of insulin include the following. Depending on the condition, it is necessary top constantly monitor the outcomes and manage the dose. This calls for a treatment plan that needs to be diligently followed. The risk of hypoglycemia is always high and this is precisely why it is necessary to ensure that the blood sugar levels do not dip below a particular level. One of the reasons why diabetics need to be monitored or self-monitor, is the risk of an abrupt dip in blood sugar levels. Insulin can also result in increasing the risk of cancers, with pancreatic cancer ranking as the most likely occurrence. It is essential to understand that this risk is limited only to a small section of patients and does not apply to all diabetics. Increased morbidity rates are also a possibility due to the indirect effects of incorrect blood glucose levels.
How is insulin administered or delivered?
With the information about side effects of insulin behind, it is now time to understand how insulin is actually delivered or administered. The actual treatment regimen of insulin differs from person to person, and is determined by various factors. With new and innovative advancements in medication delivery mechanisms, individuals now have the option of using a pump for insulin. This eliminates the need for an injection for administering insulin. While certain pumps are automatic in nature, many may require additional effort in using the pump.
In certain cases, individuals may be required to take insulin twice a day or even four times every day. Additionally, patients may also be expected to take quick acting doses of insulin during mealtimes, to cope with the spike in blood glucose levels. Other forms of insulin include injections, pens and the inhaled version that was mentioned as a reason for side effects of insulin among a small category of patients.
Different types of insulin
The different types of insulin used either as monotherapy or in combination with other forms of medication are as outlined herein. Insulin belonging to the category of rapid acting formulations that start working within a period of 15 minutes. These rapid acting formulations are known to have effects that last for almost five hours from the time of administration. Slightly different formulations of insulin are also available that typically take an hour to start working, with the effects known to last for as long as eight hours. The next category of insulin medication are the formulations that take almost 3 hours to commence working, with effects that could last for as long as sixteen hours.
There are two other types of insulin, apart from the above that are typically administered. Known in medical terms as long-acting insulins, certain formulations last for as much as a little over a full day (twenty-four hours). These formulations begin working within an hour of being administered and are useful for individuals who require stable blood glucose levels. The last formulation is the category that is a combination of a short acting formulation with a formulation that has a long-lasting mechanism of action. This combination is recommended as per a carefully calibrated schedule to reduce side effects of insulin and also to ensure that the patient gets the desired outcomes.
In addition to the side effects of insulin, it is also necessary to clear the air about insulin therapy. The medication is not a cure for diabetes, but is a medication used for managing the condition. The formulation helps control and stabilize blood glucose levels, thereby preventing other manifestations.