What is Levemir Insulin Medication Used For and Its Side Effects?
Type 1 diabetes mainly affects young children and teenagers, although this isn’t always the case. People with type 1 diabetes have a pancreas that releases little or no insulin, which means they need to take insulin frequently to aid in keeping their blood glucose at the right level.
Normally, insulin levels don’t stay the same throughout the day. They fluctuate in response to changes in blood glucose that occur before and after the consumption of food. In order to imitate the action of natural insulin that helps in controlling blood sugar levels, health professionals prescribe safe, man-made insulin for injection.
There are different types of this kind of insulin, such as:
- Rapid–acting insulin: It begins working about 15 minutes after the injection and its effects may last two to four hours. It’s often used before a meal or immediately after a meal.
- Short-acting insulin: It’s taken prior to food consumption, and it generally takes 30 to 60 minutes before it’s absorbed into the bloodstream starts working. It may last for five to eight hours.
- Intermediate-acting insulin: After the injection, it begins to work after an hour and its effects may last for up to eight hours.
- Long-acting insulin: It starts working two hours after the injection and its effects may last for up to 24 hours.
- Pre-mixed insulin: It’s a combination of short-acting insulin and intermediate acting insulin that can also last an entire day.
Insulin is given by injection using a syringe, insulin pump or insulin pen. The type of insulin prescribed will depend on health needs, personal preferences, and insurance coverage. If you prefer to take the injections at home, the doctor will train you on the injection procedure. Depending on your blood glucose level and diabetes management goal, the medical care provider may prescribe Levemir insulin.
What is Levemir?
It falls under the category of long-acting insulin and it is the brand name for insulin detemir. It’s a prescription drug used for long-term management of type 1 diabetes. Levemir is absorbed into the body over a 24 hour period, hence your blood glucose level can be controlled for a longer time than with a short-acting insulin. This medication can be used by a patient who is above two years of age, although one is at risk of its side effects, like when taking any other medication. It’s given through injections using a pre-filled, disposable Levemir flex touch pen once or twice daily. If taking the drug once, administer the shot around your bedtime or after your evening meal. On the other hand, if you are taking it twice a day, inject the first dose in the morning and the next dose in the evening, after meals. Your doctor may simply advise you to take it 12 hours after the morning shot. The drug is used in combination with short-acting insulin to manage blood sugar immediately after a meal and to help treat diabetic ketoacidosis.
What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?
It’s a severe complication that develops when the body releases elevated levels of blood acids known as ketones. It occurs if the body can’t produce adequate insulin. Without adequate insulin, the body starts to break down fat as fuel, resulting in acids building up in the bloodstream. These acids are called ketones. Eventually, this leads to diabetic ketoacidosis. The signs of the condition may develop rapidly within a 24 hour period of its development. Some of the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis are similar to the symptoms of diabetes, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Excessive thirst
- Nausea and vomiting
- Frequent urination
- Fruity scented breath
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or fatigue
High glucose levels and elevated levels of ketones in the urine are more specific symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, which may be detected through a blood or urine test. Visit a medical practitioner if you detect any of the signs listed above. As mentioned earlier, just like any other medication, one may experience Levemir side effects.
Insulin detemir side effects
Some common negative the drug reactions may be experienced for a couple of weeks or days until your body gets used to the drug.
These common negative effects include:
- Injection site reactions such as pain, swelling and irritation
- Swelling of the hands or feet
- Skin thickening on the injection area
- Weight gain
- Back pain
- Stomach pain
- Flu symptoms
- Cold symptoms like stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat
In most cases, the insulin Levemir side effects mentioned above don’t require medical attention and usually resolve on their own. However, if they are persistent, severe, or become bothersome, contact the doctor for some tips to help manage the troublesome Levemir side effects. Nevertheless, some unwanted effects of the medication are severe and need immediate medical intervention. If left untreated, they can lead to serious complications, so check with the physician if any of these more serious effects occur:
- Allergic reactions like sweating, fast heart rate, trouble breathing, wheezing, itching and skin rash over the entire body.
- Low potassium levels characterized by confusion, uneven heart rate, extreme thirst, increased urination, leg discomfort and muscle weakness.
- Unusual tiredness
You should take the dose only as directed by the doctor to avoid a Levemir overdose, or side effects like life-threatening hypoglycemia, which is characterized by a headache, hunger, weakness, sweating, tremors, irritability and trouble concentrating.
Before using Levemir injection, inform the doctor of any existing medical conditions or existing allergies you may have. Don’t leave out information about the medication you are taking, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and other important facts concerning your health because these factors may affect how you can use this medication.
If you are using insulin, you should consistently monitor your blood glucose levels as guided by a diabetes educator, especially when under stress, ill, or when your insulin dose and schedule changes. If the results of each blood test constantly indicate high or low blood sugar levels, contact the health care practitioner.
The fatty tissue under the skin at the injection area may shrink or thicken if you give the shot at the same spot too often. To avoid this negative effect, rotate the injection area with each shot.
Many things that affect your blood sugar levels can change your insulin requirements, such as:
- Medical conditions, including infections, thyroid conditions, liver and kidney disease
- Some drugs that may increase or decreases blood sugar levels
- Diet, exercise, illness
Educate your family and friends on the symptoms of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) and how to use a glucagon kit in case you pass out or experience serious low blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) can be triggered by a low dose or a missed dose of Levemir. Remember, if left untreated, hyperglycemia can eventually cause diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a severe condition.
This medication is well known for controlling or managing the blood sugar levels of type 1 diabetics effectively; however, be vigilant on monitoring Levemir flex-touch side effects.
Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.