The earliest injections given to people with diabetes were comprised of insulin derived from pigs. Nothing against pigs – we like bacon as much as the next person – but it was a relief when other forms of synthetic insulin were developed in the 1970s, enabling us to live longer, healthier lives with fewer contributions from our porcine friends.
But as terrific as the stuff is for controlling diabetes, it’s not without side effects.
Whether you’ve been taking insulin for a short time – or for a couple of decades like I have – you may sometimes wonder if that rumbling in your stomach is something you ate, or if it’s just your insulin talking.
Here, from people in the know, are four little-known insulin side effects that you may not know about, even if you’ve been using insulin for years.
An Inability to Tolerate Unreasonable People. Since insulin allows glucose to get where it needs to be (in our cells), it affects our blood-sugar levels rapidly. In the process, it may cause us to feel irritable, anxious and jittery, and totally unwilling to deal with the guy who cut in line at the coffee shop. Don’t worry; these unpleasant sensations should quickly resolve, and you’ll return to your normal, relaxed self. (If not, of course, consult your doctor.) Unfortunately, crazy people will still be among us, even after your insulin-induced irritability disappears.
Things are Looking Blurry, and You Haven’t Been Drinking. When taking insulin, your vision may sometimes be blurry, and it’s not because your eyeglasses need cleaning or the aliens are about to beam you up. It’s just another potential side effect of insulin, particularly when you first start to take it. The good news is, not only will this resolve fairly quickly, but as your body adjusts, you may end up with better vision than you did before you were diagnosed.
There are 10 Pounds You Can’t Seem to Shake. It’s not your lack of self-control, or the pastry shop on the way to work. Blame the insulin. It can cause weight gain, small deposits of fat on the surface of your skin, and that odd sense of kinship with water buffalo – sometimes called water retention. You may think this a negative, but millions of people would love to have something other than gluttony to blame for their extra pounds. If you gain weight while taking insulin, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re overindulging, but that your body is finally able to properly utilize all calories consumed. So, unless you double in size overnight, there’s probably nothing to worry about.
You Suddenly Want to Run Marathons. True, people with diabetes have to carefully balance their intake of food with the expenditure of energy. And a rapid heartbeat can be a side effect of insulin even without running 26.2 miles. But people like elite American ultrarunner Missy Foy and our friend Gavin Griffiths from Diathlete have demonstrated that with properly monitored glucose levels, people with diabetes can do pretty much everything that people without diabetes can. And a program of well-managed care will make you feel at the top of your game, and able to take on any challenge. Put that in your fine print, diabetes!