Insulin Injection Sites – Know Your Options

insulin injectingThere are many different insulin injection sites available for insulin users. In contrast, my grandmother took insulin injections for over 50 years; however she seldom strayed from one or two general sites.

Today, with better insulin, there are many options that allow you to choose different injection areas to avoid over using one particular area or depending upon what type of insulin you are using.

While most health care professionals provide a good overview of how to administer insulin, sometimes a good review is needed. Here are the most common insulin injection sites.

Different Sites

Abdomen: The primary area that most people inject insulin is in their stomach or abdomen. This area allows for greater access if injecting individually. It also typically has easily accessible fatty areas (insulin is best absorbed in fatty deposits under the skin).

Key issues when injecting in this area include:

  • Do not inject into the naval or within 1-2 inches around the navel.
  • Do not inject into surgical, other scar tissue, or moles (affects absorption).
  • Do not inject into the belt or waist area (to avoid chafing the injecting site area).

Thighs: Another common area used for injection of insulin is the thigh area. The middle and outer thigh area closer to the hip than the knees is recommended. These areas have better access to fatty deposits under the skin. You want to be able to pinch the skin a bit to inject. Like the abdominal sites, you will want to avoid any scar tissue or moles.

Buttocks: Unless you’re extremely flexible, using a mirror is highly recommended for this site. Essentially, pinch a bit of skin and inject. You may find that having assistance using this site is helpful.

Upper Arms: This is arguably the least common injection site. The back of the upper arm is recommended. Like the thigh and buttock sites, you (or your helper) will need to pinch the skin a bit and administer the injection.

Site Rotation Tips

Injection site rotation is critical. Rotating injection sites is especially important the more frequently you inject insulin. Some experts recommend not injecting within the same site (roughly and inch in diameter) for up to a week and longer if you are an insulin pump wearer.

Additionally, if you take multiple injections daily (like a morning and evening shot), then always take your morning dose in one area, such as the abdomen area, and the evening dose, in a different area, such as the upper thigh.

What damage can occur? Tissue damage such as indentations, bulging and thickening of the skin can occur if sites are not properly rotated. Rotating sites is not just important from a comfort standpoint. If the tissue is damaged from overuse, this may affect the absorption of the insulin and ultimately your glucose control.

More serious medical issues include:

Lipoatrophy: This condition results in a loss of fat tissue under the skin due to injecting multiple times in the same area.

Lipohypertrophy: This condition results in additional fat deposits forming under the skin from too many insulin injections in the sale location. Bulges under the skin can occur which can be somewhat painful (although not always). Insulin absorption can also be affected if you continue to inject into the same spot.

The above article is a general overview of injection sites. Please consult with your health care provider to determine the best insulin injections sites for your particular situation.

University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed January 2012.