Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. Diet, exercise and tablets control it for a while, but the time will come when many patients will need insulin. 50% of patients require insulin within 6 years of diagnosis.
Insulin is produced by the beta cells within the pancreas gland in the abdomen and helps keep blood glucose at normal levels. Over time, less insulin is produced and because the body is already resistant to insulin, this leads to raised glucose levels, feeling unwell and long-term complications.
Aim for an A1C <7%
The gold standard for measuring your glucose control is the A1C blood test (HbA1C or glycosylated haemoglobin). The A1C is a reliable guide to your diabetes control over the last 2-3 months. If your A1C is consistently over 7% in spite of maximum oral drug therapy, you may need insulin.
Insulin is your friend!
Many people are afraid of starting insulin. However, it is safe and simple and makes people feel better. Insulin injections are virtually painless and reduce your risk of complications e.g. eye, kidney and nerve damage.
Insulin is usually started as a single dose at night and your current diabetes tablets are continued. There are several disposable and reusable insulin ‘pens’ available which are easy to use. You simply dial up the dose and inject, usually into the skin of the abdomen.
Insulin may cause weight gain which can be reduced by eating less and exercising more. There is also a small risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Testing blood glucose levels at home on a fingerprick sample using a blood glucose meter is essential.
Don’t be frightened. Many patients say they wish they had started insulin earlier. Speak to your GP today or contact Diabetes Australia: ring 1300 136 588 or go to www.diabetesaustralia.com.au