January 19, 2022

Where to Inject Insulin & How to Keep Insulin Injection Sites Healthy

Studies have shown that almost two-thirds of all people who inject insulin have some degree of lipohypertrophy - thickening or rubbery skin at injection sites. Here, we discuss ways to avoid lipo and things to look out for.


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Insulin Site Injections

Home / Living with Diabetes / Where to Inject Insulin & How to Keep Insulin Injection Sites Healthy

Lipohypertrophy is a thickened, rubbery swelling under the skin that can develop in places where people with diabetes inject insulin. These lumps may be firm or soft, and since they are under a person’s skin, they may not be easy to see. At times, you will need to press on your skin to be able to feel them. This condition is widespread; research suggests that about two-thirds of all people who use insulin have lipo to some extent.

Because of this, it’s essential to make sure you’re injecting insulin the right way – and that includes rotating insulin injection sites. In this article, the experts at US MED will answer common questions on insulin injection like “Where can you inject insulin?” and “How do I choose insulin injection sites?”

Why is Insulin Important for People with Diabetes?

Insulin therapy has long been a crucial tactic in the fight against diabetes. This type of therapy was discovered a century ago and revolutionized the treatment of this disease. Before insulin therapy, people with diabetes had to follow rigorous diets which only let them live a few more years before dying of starvation. Thanks to the development of this therapy, people with diabetes have been able to live normal, fulfilling lives.

Not every person who has diabetes needs insulin. Some people living with type 2 diabetes can control this condition through diet and exercise and / or oral agents alone. For others, however, insulin plays an indispensable role in their diabetes treatment regimen.

Types of Insulin Injection Devices

Today, there are multiple options for your insulin needs. Here, we’ll look at some of the most common devices used to administer insulin.

Insulin Syringes

While they’re no longer the only choice for insulin, syringes are still the most widely-used insulin delivery method. These disposable needles inject insulin right under the skin. Once you’ve used a syringe, it’s crucial to get rid of it right away to avoid health risks.

Insulin Pumps

One of the downsides of insulin syringes is that they require regular injections, which can be a hassle at best and painful at worst. Fortunately, the use of an insulin pump can substantially lower your injection needs. These computerized devices, which you wear outside your body, can automatically deliver the insulin you need.

Insulin pumps are a much newer product category than insulin syringes, so many people – including people with diabetes – aren’t familiar with how they work. We’ve created an article full of answers to frequently asked questions about these devices if you’d like to learn more.

Insulin Injection Sites

No matter what device you use for your insulin delivery needs, it’s crucial to inject insulin in the right way – and the right places.illustrated-diagram-of-insulin-injection-areas

1. Abdomen

One common site for insulin injections is the abdomen. The stomach is an ideal insulin injection site for many people: it offers more surface area than other injection sites. It has low amounts of muscle and high amounts of fat.

Injecting insulin into the abdomen is simple: find a section of fatty abdominal tissue and pinch it on both sides. That said, make sure the site you choose is at least two inches away from your belly button and is not near any scars. Depending on type of needle you are using you may not need to pinch up your skin.

2. Upper Arms

It’s also possible to inject insulin into your upper arms. Doing so can be trickier than injecting insulin at other sites, but you can do it with practice or help.

You’ll need to inject insulin into your tricep area – that’s the spot halfway between your shoulder and elbow. It might be easier to inject insulin in your non-dominant arm, as well.

3. Lower Back/Buttocks

You can also use this part of the body for insulin injection. Of course, it won’t be easy on your own – you might need help from another person to use this site for injecting insulin.

When injecting insulin in this site, imagine a line between the hips and across the top of the buttocks. The needle should go above this line while staying below the waist, about halfway between a person’s side and spine. Do not inject insulin into the lower buttocks.

Rotating Insulin Injection Sites

To avoid developing lipohypertrophy, you’ll need to rotate the sites where you inject insulin. Fortunately, the site rotation process is simple once you understand how it works.

First, you’ll need to choose an insulin injection site. With that taken care of, you can mentally divide that area into four sections. You’ll use one of these sections per week, so keep track of where you’ve been and where you’re going.

When it’s time to inject insulin, make an injection in the section you’re using for the current week. The next time you need insulin, inject it one finger width away from the spot where your last injection took place. After a week, move on to the next section – by doing this, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing lipo.

How to Give an Insulin Injection

Now you know where to inject insulin, but how do you inject this medication in the first place? That depends on the device you’re using. Read on for our guide to the basics of insulin injection:

How to Inject Insulin With An Insulin Syringe

To give yourself a traditional insulin shot, start by gathering the supplies you need. These include the medication itself, a sterile syringe, alcohol wipes, and a sharps container. Clean your hands before opening your insulin bottle, rolling the bottle between your hands a few times to mix the insulin. Be sure not to shake the bottle since air bubbles can cause problems related to insulin dosage. Then, clean the bottle’s top rubber section with an alcohol wipe.

With the insulin prepared for use, take the cap off your needle. Pull its plunger back to draw in the amount of air you need (i.e., the same as the amount of insulin you will inject). Then, put the needle into your insulin bottle’s rubber stopper and push its plunger down to inject air and make it easier to draw insulin. With the needle still in the bottle, turn it upside-down and pull the plunger back to draw your required number of insulin units. Before removing the needle and replacing its cap, check for air bubbles. You can remove them by tapping on the syringe and pushing up on the plunger.

Following the guidelines outlined above, select an insulin injection site. Clean the two inches of skin surrounding this site with an alcohol wipe, and leave the wipe nearby wheninsulin-injection-illustration done. Remove the needle’s cap and hold the barrel with your dominant hand. With your non-dominant hand, pinch the clean skin surrounding the injection site. Quickly insert the needle into this skin at a 90-degree angle before pushing all the insulin into the skin. Then, swiftly pull the needle out. Treat any bleeding with the alcohol wipe and a bandage (if necessary), and avoid rubbing this area. Finally, dispose of the syringe and needle by placing them in your sharps container.

How to Inject Insulin With An Insulin Pump

While using an insulin pump, you won’t need to deal with as many injections as you would with syringes. However, it’s essential to inject the cannula used in this device properly.

To begin the setup process for your insulin pump, fill its reservoir with insulin, avoiding excess air if possible. With the reservoir filled, connect it to the infusion set, which is attached to the cannula. Then, use your device’s controls to prime the pump.

With air removed from the reservoir and tubes, apply the infusion set at a pre-selected injection site. Push the cannula under your skin, and hold it there with an adhesive patch. Once your pump is connected, set your basal rate and bolus preferences. You’ll be able to keep the pump in place for a few days; then, you’ll need to refill your reservoir, replace your infusion set, and rotate injection sites. Training on how to use and connect up to the pump should be provided by a qualified pump trainer. Settings programmed into the pump must be confirmed with your physician first.

As we mentioned before, these devices don’t rely on needles to inject insulin. Instead, they administer pressurized insulin in vapor form, allowing it to pass through your skin and into the bloodstream. Insulin jet injectors are also unlike syringes in that you’ll use them multiple times. After using your injector, be sure to follow the instructions provided by its manufacturer to sterilize it properly.

Tips for Administering an Insulin Shot

If you’re new to insulin injections, this process can feel intimidating. Here are some insulin administration tips to help you get started:

  • Store your current insulin bottle at room temperature. Your remaining insulin can be refrigerated, but don’t freeze it!
  • Keep a close eye on insulin expiration dates. Expired insulin or insulin that’s been open for too long won’t be as effective as new insulin, so make sure not to use medication that’s past its prime. To help you remember when you opened an insulin bottle, use a marker to write the date you opened it on the vial itself.
  • Remind yourself when to inject insulin. Insulin is a relatively complex medication. You can’t use a pillbox to make sure you’re getting the doses you need. Instead, set a reminder on your smart device or find another way of letting yourself know when it’s time for an insulin dose.

Reduce Your Risk for Developing Lipohypertrophy

According to scientific data, 22% of the insulin injected into areas affected by lipo is not adequately absorbed by the body. Meanwhile, 39% of people with lipo experienced unexplained hypoglycemia. That means you need to do everything you can to reduce your lipo risk.

Patients who use insulin for a long time, fail to rotate injection sites properly, and reuse needles are at heightened risk of developing lipo. Because of this, the best ways to fight lipo are making sure to rotate injection sites and dispose of needles every time you take insulin.

On another note, areas affected by lipo should not:

  • Be hot or warm to the touch
  • Have redness or unusual bruising
  • Be noticeably painful

These symptoms can indicate a potential infection or injury. If you notice any of these issues, contact a doctor as soon as possible.

Choose US MED For Diabetes Supplies

With these insulin guidelines in mind, you should be ready to inject your medication like a pro! Do you need insulin pumps or insulin pens, needles, and syringes? If so, order them from US MED for free shipping and a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee!

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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