Injections shouldn’t be painful – Helen May

I believe the press are improving on the way they report about diabetes: there is more to distinguish between the different types and some focus on complications. However, there are still reports of miracle cures and sensationalisation of some of the problems.

Today, I was reading an article about Type 1 diabetes and my heckles were raised as I read the common phrase “painful injections for the rest of her life”. It is true that Type 1 diabetes (and some Type 2) is treated with insulin and insulin needs to be injected. And, it is true this treatment will go on for the rest of our lives (or at least until a cure is found). However, the needles are short and very thin: not the huge syringes that are still often photographed next to the article about diabetes.

Most people’s experience of injections is the vaccinations we had as children. I remember queuing up outside the nurses office waiting for my Rubella jab. There was a certain amount of nervousness: some responded with fear and concern whereas others responded with bravado. However, as the “latest victims” emerged from the “office of doom”, most would say “actually, it wasn’t too bad.” And it wasn’t – there was a pin prick as the needle went in and, if you didn’t look away, there was the uncomfortable view of the needle sticking out of your arm. However, we had been conditioned to believe that injections are a terrible thing.

I understand there are people with needle phobias; there are people who are scared to see something alien sticking out of a body; there are people who are ultra sensitive; and there are times when the needle can hurt. But these are minority cases: not ones to be ignored but not normal cases.

When we are diagnosed with diabetes, there are many things to worry about like calculating the correct dose of insulin to manage our blood sugars to avoid hypos and complications. Injections are inconvenient, misunderstood and difficult to hide. But rarely painful.

If daily injections are painful, there is a problem: the needle may be the wrong size, your body may be reacting against the insulin, you may need to pinch, you may need to try a different type of insulin, you may need to try to inject somewhere else. You should go and see a doctor to find out what is the problem. There is enough to worry about with diabetes without having to endure “painful injections every day”.

As for journalists who keep writing about these “painful injections”, they are unlikely to know how the insulin is injected with a pen or via a pump and are probably forgetting that their childhood vaccinations “actually, weren’t too bad”.

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