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Diabetes 101
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Taking Your Diabetes Medicine

Insulin and diabetes pills are the two kinds of medicines used to lower blood sugar.

If you use insulin

You need insulin if your body has stopped making insulin or if it doesn't make enough insulin. Everyone with insulin-dependent diabetes needs insulin, and many people with noninsulin-dependent diabetes need insulin.

Insulin cannot be taken as a pill. You will have to give yourself shots every day. Some people give themselves one shot a day. Some people give themselves two or more shots a day. You need to take your insulin every day. Never skip a shot, even if you are sick.

Insulin is injected with a needle. Your doctor will tell you what kind of insulin to use, how much, and when to give yourself a shot. Talk to your doctor before changing the type or amount of insulin you use or when you give your shots. Your doctor or the diabetes educator will show you how to draw up insulin in the needle. They will also show you the best places on your body to give yourself a shot. Ask someone to help you with your shots if your hands are shaky or you can't see well.

Good places on your body to give shots are:

  • The outside part of your upper arms.

  • Around your waist and hips.

  • The outside part of your upper legs.

  • Avoid areas with scars and stretch marks

  • Ask your doctor or nurse to check your skin where you give your shots.

You may be a little afraid at first to give yourself a shot. But most people find that the shots hurt less than they expected. The needles are small and sharp and do not go deep into your skin. Always use your own needles and never share them with anyone else. Your doctor or diabetes educator will tell you how to throw away used needles safely.

Keep extra insulin in your refrigerator in case you break the bottle you are using. Do not keep insulin in the freezer or in hot places like the glove compartment of your car. Also, keep it away from bright light. Too much heat, cold, and bright light can damage insulin.

If you take diabetes pills

If your body makes insulin, but the insulin doesn't lower your blood sugar, you may have to take diabetes pills. Diabetes pills only work in people who have some insulin of their own. Some pills are taken once a day, some are taken more often. Ask your doctor when you should take your pills.

Diabetes pills are safe and easy to take. Be sure to tell your doctor if your diabetes pills make you feel bad or if you have any other problems. Remember, diabetes pills do not lower blood sugar all by themselves. You will still have to follow an eating plan and exercise to help lower your blood sugar.

Sometimes, people who take diabetes pills may need insulin shots for a while. This may happen if you get very sick, need to go to a hospital, or become pregnant. You may need insulin shots if the diabetes pills no longer work to lower your blood sugar.

You may be able to stop taking diabetes pills if you lose weight. Losing even a little bit of weight can sometimes help to lower your blood sugar.

If you don't use insulin or take diabetes pills

Many people with noninsulin-dependent diabetes don't have to use insulin or take diabetes pills. However, everyone with diabetes needs to follow their doctors advice about eating and getting enough exercise.

Ask your doctor when you should take your pills or insulin. Tell your other doctors that you take insulin or diabetes pills.

Source: NIDDK

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