Insulin Information: Dispelling the Myths and Misconceptions

Is insulin dangerous? Get the facts about insulin and insulin safety.

Medically reviewed in August 2020

If you take insulin to manage your diabetes, you've probably wondered at one time or another if insulin could make you gain weight or cause your quality of life to decline. It's not uncommon thinking. But you'll be happy to know that these thoughts are unfounded, and that insulin is safe and effective when used properly. In fact, there are many myths and misconceptions about insulin that we would like to clear up for you. So let's get started.

Myth: Insulin makes you fat.
Fact: Insulin can stimulate your appetite but you can fight weight gain by eating more fruit, vegetables, and high fiber foods and by exercising more.

Myth: If you need insulin, you failed to control your diabetes properly.
Fact: No way! Diabetes is a progressive disease that can't be cured. If your pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin, and other medications don't work to control your blood sugar, it's normal for your doctor to prescribe insulin. It's not your fault.

Myth: Insulin injections hurt a lot.
Fact: The needles used to inject insulin are very thin and relatively painless. Many people who take insulin feel the injections hurt less than finger pricks to monitor blood glucose. And if you're afraid of needles, ask your doctor about effective strategies that can help you overcome needle phobias.

Myth: Insulin makes your blood sugar too low.
Fact: Your concerns about insulin and hypoglycemia are valid, but you can avoid this potential side effect of insulin by learning the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar and by treating it promptly.

Myth: It's hard to have a normal life if you take insulin.
Fact: Taking insulin does require that you plan ahead according to your diet and physical activity levels. But people who take insulin can still travel, eat out, and live very active and independent lives. Speak to a diabetes educator if you're concerned about how taking insulin fits into your life.

Myth: Insulin always has to be refrigerated.
Fact: Regardless of whether it's opened or unopened, some types of insulin can stay at room temperature for days and still be effective. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about insulin storage for your particular type of insulin.

Myth: If you start insulin, you'll have to take it for life.
Fact: With type 2 diabetes, you could start on insulin, yet still be able to switch to other medications at another time. And although it's not common, some people may even stop medications altogether if they manage to get their blood sugar under control by losing enough weight and making other healthy changes.

Myth: Once you are on insulin, you can eat however and whatever you want.
Fact: Medications like insulin are just one part of treatment. You still need to eat right to help control your blood sugar. In fact, eating poorly could mean needing more insulin.

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