Fifty-Three thousand 53,000 Needle Marks

Fifty-three thousand (53,000). I have stuck sharp objects into my skin over Fifty-three thousand (53,000) times. It’s a big number. But it’s not even a lifetime; it’s only twenty-five years of diabetes. There are people I know with diabetes who have a much bigger number!

My curiosity about how many times I’ve injected insulin into this dysfunctional body stems from this really powerful piece by Willeke-Maya on about living with MS

I will admit that my first thought when I read about Willeke-Maya’s once daily and thrice weekly injections was “what’s the big deal? People with diabetes do this 8-10 times a day between finger pricks with a lancet device and needles from injections”.

But then, I found my human again and read further. Willeke-Maya, you are a hero, your post was such an insight and I thank you for my inspiration to write this post.


I got curious about my own injection math and did a little calculating and came up with an approximate of 53,147 times in the last 25 years that I’ve pierced my skin with a needle or lancet device. Fifty-three thousand! Wow, that’s a big number. If only I had a euro….

I’m not squeamish but my knees went a bit weak at the thought of how big the number is. It made this image a bit more real to me.

Photo credit unknown

Photo credit unknown

It doesn’t seem like a big deal when it’s done one at a time, but then, I noticed all the marks that number has left behind on my skin. My needle punctures are so much more noticeable now since I switched to a different insulin pump.

53,147 times that I’ve pierced my skin with a needle or lancet to be alive

Not only does each needle puncture leave a mark on my skin but if I inject too many times in the same place the risk of hard lumpy skin building up in that areas increases a lot and this affects how well I absorb the insulin.

This is the puncture mark left on my stomach after every insulin pump needle change.

This is the puncture mark left on my stomach after every insulin pump needle change.

This year, alone, I have pierced my skin with a sharp needle 2,019 times

This year, alone, which is a bit of a coincidence, I have stabbed myself a total of 2,019 Times. I think I finally see why people might say to me that they could never inject themselves - they realise what it means and how long for.

This year’s skin puncture breakdown:

  • 121 times for insulin pump set changes with a 6mm needle

  • 1460 times finger prick checks

  • 146 times for a glucose sensor insertion

  • 292 more finger checks for the glucose sensor warm up

Total 2,019

Here’s the breakdown since the beginning of my diagnosis

First years 1993 to 1999 total = 8,760 times

When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I injected insulin twice per day and did a finger prick check twice a day.

  • Injections per year total 730 for 6 years = 4380

  • Blood Glucose finger prick checks same 4380

Basal/Bolus Year's 1999 - 2010 total = 36,135 times

In 1999, the new insulins became available and when my consultant introduced the idea of injecting 4 or 5 times per day instead of twice daily I thought “Are you mental?” But after some research I decided that it was a better treatment option. This also meant increasing the number of glucose checks too.

However, in 2003, new research declared that checking my sugars after meals was beneficial.

  • Four injections per day, per year = 1,460 for 11 years = 16,060

  • Finger pricks checks 1999 to 2002:  4 per day per year 1,460 for 5 years equals 7,300

  • Finger pricks checks 2003 until 2010: 7 times per day, per year 2555 for 5 years = 12,775

Pump years before cgm 2010 - 2015 total = 3,163

I started using an insulin pump in 2010 and this is the method of insulin delivery I still use today. It reduces the number of needles from daily to once every three days.

  • Needle set changes every three days in one year is 121 for 5 years = 608 times

  • Finger pricks checks: 7 per day for 5 years = 2,555

Since CGM 2016-2018 total = 5,089

At the end of 2015, I started using a continuous glucose sensor which, eventually, reduced the number of finger prick checks I did.

  • Needle set changes every three days in one year is 121 for 3 years = 365

  • Finger pricks checks: 4 per day for 3 years = 4,380

  • Glucose Sensors inserted, every 2 to 3 weeks = 52

  • Finger pricks checks for sensor warm up = 292

Total for 25 years 53,147 times.

There may be more times that I’ve stuck needles into myself but this is an estimate over the years.