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Q.

What are the side effects of taking too much insulin?

 

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A.

For people with diabetes who require insulin in order to control blood sugar, the benefits of insulin far outweigh the risks of side effects from using insulin.

Taking more insulin than you need can lead to low blood sugar. This is called a hypoglycemic reaction.

Low blood sugar can lead to any of these symptoms:

  • From a sugar shortage in the brain

    • Headache

    • Dizziness

    • Blurred vision

    • Difficulty concentrating

    • Poor coordination

    • Confusion

    • Weakness

    • Fainting

    • Tingling sensations in the lips or hands

    • Confused speech

    • Abnormal behavior

    • Convulsions

    • Loss of consciousness

    • Coma

  • From an adrenaline "surge" (your body releases the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine in an emergency like low blood sugar)

    • Sweating

    • Tremors (feeling shaky)

    • Rapid heartbeat

    • Anxiety

    • Hunger

Injecting insulin can lead to swelling or the formation of a nodule under the skin at the injection site.

The primary side effect of taking large doses of insulin over a long period of time is weight gain. A few people develop antibodies against insulin, which makes these people resistant to insulin's effect.

Copyright 11/10/2009 Harvard University. All rights reserved. HHP/HMS content licensing handled by Belvoir Media Group.

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