Insulin Side Effects

Allergic Reactions to Insulin in People with Diabetes

You may think you do not need to worry about side effects with insulin if you take it to help control your diabetes and blood glucose levels. It seems like it is such a natural substance that it is hard to remember it is a medication—and it is possible to experience an allergic reaction and other side effects with insulin. While most people who use insulin do not experience significant side effects, you should be aware of the potential complications, just in case they occur.

Allergic Reactions to Insulin
A small minority of patients taking insulin experience allergic reactions to it.

If, after injecting your insulin, you notice that the skin around you injection site swells or turns red, you should immediately seek medical help. You want to go directly to your doctor's office, an urgent care clinic, or a hospital emergency room in case more severe complications develop. If you are in a medical setting and you begin to develop hives or itchiness, they can treat it. If your face and lips start to swell, they can help you.

If life-threatening side effects, such as a swollen tongue, tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or fainting occur, you want to be somewhere where someone can immediately help you.

If you start to experience any of these symptoms outside of a medical setting, call 911. The paramedics and EMTs who arrive to help you will have many of the skills, medications, and tools to treat you.

Hypoglycemia: A Possible Side Effect of Insulin
A lot of diabetes and diabetes treatment is controlling your blood glucose levels. You're always working hard to avoid extreme lows (hypoglycemia) or extreme highs (hyperglycemia).

It is possible to develop hypoglycemia after taking insulin. While it is insulin's job to lower blood glucose (blood sugar), it can potentially do its job too well and reduce blood sugar too much.

It is important to learn to recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia. You can verify hypoglycemia with your blood glucose meter, and you can treat it by consuming some fast-acting carbohydrates.

Your doctor and diabetes treatment team is the best resource for learning how to recognize and treat hypoglycemia.

Other Possible Insulin Side Effects
Other side effects that come from using insulin include gaining weight, interactions with other medications, headaches, and nausea.

Also, each type of insulin has its own profile of possible side effects. When you begin using a new insulin, read the patient information insert that outlines side effects common to that particular type of insulin.

While reactions to insulin are not common, you want to be aware of the potential side effects. Knowing how to recognize when you are having an allergic reaction or hypoglycemia after an insulin injection are important to your health and well-being as you live a full life with diabetes.

First published on: April 20, 2011