Side Effects of Insulin

For many people the idea of injecting themselves with insulin everyday can be quite daunting which is totally understandable. You may find the process quite painful and hard to do at the start, however it is likely that you will become used to it after a while. There are some problems that can arise during insulin treatment, both at the injection site and also throughout the body.

Injection Site

At the site of injection there are a number of complications that can arise. Primarily, using shallow injections can lead to scarring and painful swollen injection sites. As with all procedures that pierce the skin, there is a small risk that the site can become infected. If this occurs, you will require some extra treatment with some antibiotics. Very rarely you may experience an allergic reaction to the insulin, however these tend to subside.

In some cases, when one injection site becomes over used, you may experience a problem known as lipohypertrophy. This is a condition that can occur quite frequently and is basically the growth of fat cells around the injection site. This can be overcome by changing injection sites.

Insulin Resistance

Another side effect of using insulin is that prolonged usage can lead to insulin resistance. This means that over time you may begin to require greater doses of insulin to get the same effects. This can be somewhat overcome by altering insulin regimens.

Weight Gain

One of the most undesirable side effects of insulin use is the tendency it has to induce weight gain. You may find that you begin to put on weight and also feel a lot hungrier than usual. This is often the case when your dose of insulin is too high. Generally the heavier you have been before, the more weight you tend to put on.


The most common side effect of insulin treatment is hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar. It is a major complication and can be life threatening. It happens because insulin causes liver and muscle cells to take up glucose from the blood. If you inject too much insulin, your cells take up and store too much glucose. This lowers your blood sugar, decreasing the amount there is available for the brain to use. As the brain can only use glucose for energy, if there isn’t enough, you can become unconscious and fall into a hypoglycaemic coma.

The common signs of hypoglycaemia occur when your blood sugar concentration falls below 3 mmol/L and usually develops very rapidly. It is important that both you and your family know what to look out for and how to treat this condition.

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