Why patients with diabetes skip insulin doses?

While the study design cannot provide an in-depth picture (a qualitative analyses would), this Internet survey sought to identify correlates of why people would skip insulin doses (which a substantial proportion of patients reported doing: 57%; 20% reported skipping doses regularly).   Of note for our discussions in this blog is the prominence patients give to interference with daily activities.  This indicates patients directly indicating that a cause for nonadherence is the disruption to their lives caused by insulin use.

With very thin data to support this recommendation, many diabetologists are promoting the early use of insulin in patients with type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes.  Since insulin use requires closer monitoring of blood sugars to manage the dose of insulin and avoid and manage low blood sugars, insulin-containing programs may be quite disruptive.  This paper adds that injecting the insulin can also be disruptive (in terms of effort and schedule I suspect given the correlation with more frequently prescribed injections) and embarrassing to some.

In my practice, I tried to address this with my patients, particularly those who need insulin to avoid symptoms of high blood sugars.  For these patients, I suggest the use of insulin pens and, when appropriate, insulin pumps.  However, the cost of these technologies has made them less accessible to my patients in these times of economic crises.  Thus, clinicians would have to review with patients their goals of care to determine whether, when, and how should insulin be used to manage their diabetes.  Calls for early use to protect the beta cell seem to ignore or at best place a lower value on avoiding or minimizing these challenges.

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