"What is the diabetes medication insulin and how does it work?
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by certain cells in the pancreas called beta cells. Insulin helps the body use blood glucose (a type of sugar) for energy. When we e"...
COMMON PROBLEMS OF DIABETES
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
- Missing or delaying meals.
- Taking too much insulin.
- Exercising or working more than usual.
- An infection or illness associated with diarrhea or vomiting.
- A change in the body's need for insulin.
- Diseases of the adrenal, pituitary, or thyroid gland, or progression of kidney or liver disease.
- Interactions with certain drugs, such as oral antidiabetic agents, salicylates (for example, aspirin), sulfa antibiotics, certain antidepressants and some kidney and blood pressure medicines.
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Symptoms of mild to moderate hypoglycemia may occur suddenly and can include:
| • sweating
• tingling in the hands, feet, lips, or tongue
• inability to concentrate
Signs of severe hypoglycemia can include:
Therefore, it is important that assistance be obtained immediately.
Early warning symptoms of hypoglycemia may be different or less pronounced under certain conditions, such as long duration of diabetes, diabetic nerve disease, use of medications such as beta-blockers, changing insulin preparations, or intensified control (3 or more insulin injections per day) of diabetes.
A few patients who have experienced hypoglycemic reactions after transfer from animal-source insulin to human insulin have reported that the early warning symptoms of hypoglycemia were less pronounced or different from those experienced with their previous insulin.
Without recognition of early warning symptoms, you may not be able to take steps to avoid more serious hypoglycemia. Be alert for all of the various types of symptoms that may indicate hypoglycemia. Patients who experience hypoglycemia without early warning symptoms should monitor their blood glucose frequently, especially prior to activities such as driving. If the blood glucose is below your normal fasting glucose, you should consider eating or drinking sugar-containing foods to treat your hypoglycemia.
Mild to moderate hypoglycemia may be treated by eating foods or drinks that contain sugar. Patients should always carry a quick source of sugar, such as hard candy or glucose tablets. More severe hypoglycemia may require the assistance of another person. Patients who are unable to take sugar orally or who are unconscious require an injection of glucagon or should be treated with intravenous administration of glucose at a medical facility.
You should learn to recognize your own symptoms of hypoglycemia. If you are uncertain about these symptoms, you should monitor your blood glucose frequently to help you learn to recognize the symptoms that you experience with hypoglycemia.
If you have frequent episodes of hypoglycemia or experience difficulty in recognizing the symptoms, you should talk to your doctor to discuss possible changes in therapy, meal plans, and/or exercise programs to help you avoid hypoglycemia.
Hyperglycemia (High Blood Sugar) and Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
Hyperglycemia (too much glucose in the blood) may develop if your body has too little insulin. Hyperglycemia can be brought about by any of the following:
- Omitting your insulin or taking less than your doctor has prescribed.
- Eating significantly more than your meal plan suggests.
- Developing a fever, infection, or other significant stressful situation.
In patients with type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes, prolonged hyperglycemia can result in DKA (a life-threatening emergency). The first symptoms of DKA usually come on gradually, over a period of hours or days, and include a drowsy feeling, flushed face, thirst, loss of appetite, and fruity odor on the breath. With DKA, blood and urine tests show large amounts of glucose and ketones. Heavy breathing and a rapid pulse are more severe symptoms. If uncorrected, prolonged hyperglycemia or DKA can lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dehydration, loss of consciousness, or death. Therefore, it is important that you obtain medical assistance immediately.
Rarely, administration of insulin subcutaneously can result in lipoatrophy (seen as an apparent depression of the skin) or lipohypertrophy (seen as a raised area of the skin). If you notice either of these conditions, talk to your doctor. A change in your injection technique may help alleviate the problem.
Local Allergy - Patients occasionally experience redness, swelling, and itching at the site of injection. This condition, called local allergy, usually clears up in a few days to a few weeks. In some instances, this condition may be related to factors other than insulin, such as irritants in the skin cleansing agent or poor injection technique. If you have local reactions, talk to your doctor.
Systemic Allergy - Less common, but potentially more serious, is generalized allergy to insulin, which may cause rash over the whole body, shortness of breath, wheezing, reduction in blood pressure, fast pulse, or sweating. Severe cases of generalized allergy may be life threatening. If you think you are having a generalized allergic reaction to insulin, call your doctor immediately.
Read the Humulin 50-50 (50-50 human insulin isophane suspension and human insulin injection) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects
No information provided.This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
Last reviewed on RxList: 9/13/2007
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