September 3, 2015

Do You Have a Needle Phobia or Just a Dislike?

Of the several members of our support group on insulin, only one was very upset about having to inject himself several times a day with insulin. Now that he has done it for three years, he admits it is not as hard as he thought it would be. Yes, he is like the rest of us injecting insulin and admits he is getting tired of the daily injections, but with the management level he now has, he is happy he is capable of doing this.

In talking a few times this summer, we have put together several ideas that we felt could make it easier for people starting on insulin, type 1 and type 2:

#1. Learn that it won't be as bad as you imagine. Jason said the thought was worse than actually doing the injections. He continued that after the first injection, the following injections were a lot easier. Even A.J admitted he had heard many of the myths about injecting insulin and he now knows that they are not true.

Jason said that the needles are very thin and the areas where we need to inject are almost nerve free and injecting is often less painful that using the lancet on the sides of our finger tips. Jason continued that you can sometimes hit a nerve, but the pain does not last long and you sometimes have to remember this and once you get past the first injection, the fear should disappear – unless you have a real phobia about sharp objects.

#2. Use the right tool. In the past, the syringe needles were larger and this could by itself be frightening. Now most syringes have 30 gauge needles an are one-half inch in length or shorter. We even suggest asking your pharmacist for the shortest needles and the thinnest needles available. Although I occasionally use a syringe more than one time, it is best to use a fresh needle or syringe only once, as even one use dulls the point of the needle enough to cause discomfort if reused.

Most of us have thought about using a pen, but the cost for us is the deciding factor. Others do prefer the pen to the syringe. They find it easier to dial the dose on a pen than it is to see the markings on a syringe.

#3. Focus on fat. In this case, "Fat is good!" Allen says. To work properly, insulin is supposed to be injected into fatty tissue. Allen is thin and we sometimes kid him about finding fat so he can inject. Even he says that it is good getting shots in fleshy sections of your body is less painful than it would be in leaner areas. The stomach, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks all tend to be good spots.

We all agree that to make shots as painless as possible:
  • Always inject insulin at room temperature.
  • Let the alcohol you use to clean your skin dry so it doesn't burn if you even use alcohol.
  • Relax the part of your body you're targeting.
You should also insert and remove the needle in a swift, smooth manner without shifting direction. Most of us count to five or ten seconds to prevent leaks when we remove the needle from the area where we inject. We also rotate the areas where we inject to prevent scar tissue from building up and making it more difficult for the insulin to disperse.

Jason said he learned if you're still bothered by the prick of the needle, use a cold spoon to numb the area first. And, it helps to take some deep breaths and calm yourself, especially when you’re new to the process.

#4. Talk to your doctor immediately if you suspect an allergy. Very few people have an allergy to the insulins of today, but a few do.

#5. Do not let your doctor use insulin as the medication of last resort. Many doctors do this and insulin is often delayed until complications begin to develop. Many doctors are uncomfortable with insulin and do not want to prescribe insulin until they are forced to prescribe insulin. It is unfortunate that many of these same doctors will belittle patients to have them stay on oral medications and others will tell the patients they have failed if they need insulin.

If number 5 (#5) happens to you, find another doctor or possibly an endocrinologist.

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