Insulin detemir, also known as Levemir or Levemir FlexTouch, is a popular long-acting insulin option for managing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. While low blood sugar is a common side effect of all insulins, there are a few additional side effects of insulin detemir that you should be aware of.


Possible side effects of insulin detemir include injection site reactions, headaches, and upper respiratory tract infections. However, it’s worth noting that compared to other longer-acting insulins, insulin detemir may be less likely to cause weight gain. It’s important to be aware of more serious side effects such as severe low blood glucose and low potassium levels, as these may require medical attention.


Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of side effects and get the most out of your treatment. In this article, we will discuss seven common side effects of insulin detemir and provide tips on how to manage them.


1) Low blood glucose:

Hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, is the most common side effect of insulin detemir. This occurs when your blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dL. Symptoms may include sweating, shaking, and a rapid heartbeat. Risk factors for hypoglycemia include skipping meals, illness, alcohol consumption, and taking other diabetes medications. Your healthcare provider will help determine the appropriate insulin detemir dose for you and can adjust it as needed.


If you experience hypoglycemia, it’s important to treat it immediately to avoid complications. Following your healthcare provider’s instructions is crucial. Consuming 15g of fast-acting sugar, such as half a cup of fruit juice, can quickly raise your blood glucose levels. If your levels drop below 55 mg/dL, seek assistance. Teach others to call emergency services if you lose consciousness, have difficulty walking, or become confused.


2) Injection site reactions: 

Like many injectable medications, insulin detemir can cause reactions at the site of injection. Symptoms may include pain, itching, and swelling. Most injection site reactions resolve on their own within a day or two. Applying a cold compress to the area can help with redness and swelling.


Proper injection technique and rotating injection sites can also minimize these reactions. If the reaction persists or worsens, consult your healthcare provider for advice on how to best manage it.


3) Lipodystrophy:

Another potential side effect of insulin detemir is lipodystrophy. This can manifest as pits or thickened skin at the injection site. To prevent issues with absorption, it’s important to avoid injecting insulin into these areas. Risk factors for lipodystrophy include injecting in the same spot, reusing needles, and poor injection technique. Rotating injection sites and using a new needle for each injection can help reduce the risk.


4) Headache:

Headaches are a common side effect of insulin detemir. These headaches may be caused by fluctuations in blood glucose levels as your body adjusts to the insulin. It’s important to check your blood glucose levels if you experience a headache to ensure they aren’t too high or too low. If your insulin dose needs adjustment, your healthcare provider can assist.


As your blood glucose levels become better controlled, the headaches should subside. If you continue to experience headaches, consult your healthcare provider to determine if they are related to insulin detemir or another cause. They can also recommend short-term relief options such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.


5) Upper respiratory tract infections:

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are another common side effect of insulin detemir. It’s important to note that diabetes itself can increase the risk of infections. Most URTIs, such as the common cold, are caused by viruses and will resolve on their own. Antibiotics are not recommended for treating these infections.


Management typically involves addressing symptoms such as a sore throat, cough, and runny nose. Over-the-counter medications are available to help with these symptoms, but be aware that some may contain glucose and could affect your blood glucose levels. Consult your healthcare provider for safe options.


6) Weight gain:

Insulin detemir, like many other forms of insulin, can lead to weight gain. Insulin helps transport glucose from your blood into your cells for energy. However, excess glucose can be converted into fat, potentially leading to weight gain.


Insulin detemir is known to cause less weight gain compared to other insulins such as glargine and NPH. While the exact reasons for this are not fully understood, it is believed to involve a complex interaction between the brain and metabolism. 


Clinical trials have shown that individuals with Type 2 diabetes may gain an average of 1 lb to 2.5 lb while those with Type 1 diabetes may experience weight loss or gain ranging from 0.5 lb to 1 lb.


To manage weight changes from insulin treatment, it is important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine. Keeping blood glucose levels under control is also crucial. If you have concerns about weight gain from insulin detemir, your healthcare provider can provide tips on how to manage it.


7) Low potassium levels

One potential side effect of insulin treatment, including insulin detemir, is low potassium levels. This is because insulin causes potassium in the blood to move into cells, resulting in decreased blood potassium levels. While it is uncommon for insulin detemir to cause hypokalemia on its own, there may be an increased risk if you are taking other medications that lower potassium or if you already have low potassium levels. Symptoms of low potassium include muscle weakness and can have an impact on heart rhythm and breathing.


It is important to have your potassium levels monitored by your healthcare provider while taking insulin. If you notice any symptoms of hypokalemia, it is essential to inform them right away.


If you have any concerns or experience side effects from insulin detemir, it is recommended to communicate with your healthcare provider. They can provide guidance on how to manage or avoid side effects and may need to adjust your insulin dose if necessary.


In conclusion, common side effects of insulin detemir include low blood glucose, injection site reactions, and upper respiratory tract infections. Serious side effects such as severe hypoglycemia and low potassium are also possible. Your healthcare provider or pharmacist can assist you in navigating any potential side effects from treatment, whether they are mild and manageable at home or require medical attention.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Abraham Parker, nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.