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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For most people with diabetes, managing it revolves around needles, especially those who have to take insulin.
But some diabetics are now keeping their sugar in check with a nearly needle-free option.
That’s good news for people like Ellen Morrow who has Type 1 Diabetes and is petrified of needles.
Because her body no longer produces insulin on its own, she is completely dependent on artificial insulin.
“It was a daunting thing to constantly have to take shots five times a day and to prick your finger 10 times a day. It seemed like it would be a long and brutal road,” says Morrow.
And it was, until she found out about insulin that she could inhale.
Dr. Erin Kershaw, chief of Endocrinology at UPMC, says, “Injecting insulin is a big barrier for some people. So this provides an intermediate step.”
Inhaled insulin has been around for a while, but many patients didn’t like it in the beginning.
“The initial formulations had a delivery device that was very large and very cumbersome and very complicated for patents to understand how to use properly,” says Dr. Kershaw.
It also used a powdered type of insulin that made getting the right dosage difficult and caused lung problems.
Now, the inhaler you use is much smaller and the insulin comes in a capsule, making dosing easier. Though you do still have to adjust the dosage based on your blood sugar readings.
Once you inhale, the insulin is rapidly absorbed.
“It’s more potent so you need less of it and it’s less irritating to the lungs”, says Dr. Kershaw.
You still have to take one long-lasting insulin shot each morning, but this is a way for people to cover their short-term needs throughout the day, including during meals.
Morrow simply takes a puff every time she eats.
“Nobody really wants to pull out a needle find a spot that they can give themselves an injection in the middle of a restaurant,” says Morrow.
Doctors say it’s not for everyone, especially people with COPD or Asthma, but Morrow says it’s been great for her.
“There’s less stress and less worry, you can just do your little puff for five seconds and move on,” says Morrow.
“The bottom line is the most important thing for people with diabetes is to be able to control their diabetes the best they can with minimal interference with their day to day life, and if an individual feels that taking insulin through an inhaled route is easier and better for them and helps them achieve better control then that is all that matters really,” says Kershaw.
Inhaled insulin can be used to help manage both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
Patients do have to have a lung capacity test first to see if it will work for them.