Insulin for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
types of insulin are categorized according to how fast
they start to work (onset) and how long they continue to work (duration). The
types now available include rapid-, short-, intermediate-, and long-acting
|insulin human (inhalation powder)||Afrezza|
|insulin regular||Humulin R, Novolin R, Humulin R U-500|
|insulin NPH||Humulin N, Novolin N|
|70% NPH and 30%
|Humulin 70/30, Novolin 70/30|
lispro protamine and 50% lispro
|Humalog Mix 50/50|
|75% lispro protamine and 25% lispro||Humalog Mix 75/25|
|70% aspart protamine and 30% aspart||NovoLog Mix 70/30|
|50% NPH and 50% regular||Humulin 50/50|
Injectable insulin is packaged in small
glass vials (bottles) and cartridges that hold more than one
dose and are sealed with rubber lids. The cartridges are used in pen-shaped
devices called .
Inhaledis a powder that is packaged in a cartridge. Cartridges hold certain dosages of , and more than one cartridge might be needed to take enough .
How insulin is taken
usually is given as
an injection into the tissues under the skin (subcutaneous). It can also be
given through an
insulin pump, an
insulin pen, or jet injector, a device that sprays the
medicine into the skin. Some can be given through a vein (only in a
Powderedis packaged in a cartridge, which fits into an . Using the , a person breathes in to take the .
How It Works
Insulin lets sugar (glucose) in the
blood enter cells, where it is used for energy. Without , the blood
sugar level rises above what is safe for the body. If the cells don't get sugar to use for energy, they try to use other in the body. When this happens, acids can build up. Too much acid production (ketoacidosis) can be serious or even life-threatening.
Your body uses
in different ways. Sometimes you need to work quickly to reduce
blood sugar. Your body also needs on a regular basis to keep your blood
sugar in a target range.
- Rapid-acting and short-acting
blood sugar levels quickly and then wear off.
- When you use
intermediate- or long-acting with rapid- or short-acting , the longer acting
starts taking effect when the shorter acting begins to wear
- Usually people who take
rapid- or short-acting and an intermediate- or long-acting insulin. This can help to
keep blood sugar levels within a range that is safe for the body throughout the
use a combination of a
Why It Is Used
Insulin is used to treat:
- People who have
type 1 diabetes.
- People with
type 2 diabetes whose
pancreas produces little or no or whose other diabetes
medicines do not control their blood sugar. These people may take
either by itself or along with other diabetes medicine.
- People with
surgery. After blood sugar levels return to a target range, these people may be
able to stop taking .
whose blood sugar levels are high because of a severe illness or major
- Women with
pregnant or and who cannot keep their blood sugar levels in a
target range with diet and exercise. Sometimes other medicine for , such as metformin or glyburide, is used during .
How Well It Works
Insulin is effective in reducing
blood sugar levels by helping sugar (glucose) enter the cells to be used for
Some things that affect
how fast and how well an insulin dose works are:
- Where the dose is given. If you give
into your abdomen (especially above and to the side of your belly button), the
medicine will get into your system more consistently from day to day. If the
medicine is given into a muscle or a small blood vessel instead of fatty
tissue, the medicine will get into your system faster.
- How much
is given. Higher doses of reduce the blood sugar level more
than lower doses.
- Whether you have exercised before or just after taking
If you have just exercised the muscles in the area where you give your insulin
injection, the medicine will get into your system faster.
- If you
apply heat to the area. The medicine will get into your system faster if you
take a hot bath or shower, put on a heat pack, or massage the area where you
have just given your insulin injection.
- If you do not have enough
fluid in your body (you are dehydrated). You will not have as much blood flow
to your skin, so will not be absorbed as well.
Know how to give an insulin injection.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask yourabout the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
- Trouble breathing.
- of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Passed out (lost consciousness), or you suddenly become very sleepy or confused. You may have low blood sugar, called .
Call your doctor if you have:
- Problems with frequent high or low blood sugar levels.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
- Low blood sugar.
See Drug Reference for
a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all
What To Think About
insulin pump provides a way to give with less
frequent injections, and it is as effective as multiple daily injections at keeping
blood sugar levels in a target range.
Don't sharewith anyone else who uses . Even when the needle is changed, an can carry bacteria or blood that can make another person sick.
The long-acting insulin
glargine (Lantus) may help prevent some people from having frequent nighttime
low blood sugar levels. It may also help people who have had
difficulty keeping their blood sugar levels in their target range with
Things to check
Label each insulin bottle when you use it
for the first time.
Store insulin properly so that its effectiveness is
When you buy
to make sure you are buying the correct type. For example, if you have been
using Humulin R ( regular), make sure you buy Humulin R instead of
Humulin N (insulin NPH).
Know when your prescribed
(onset), when they work most (peak), and how long they work
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines,, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Other Works Consulted
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Guideline for isolation precautions: Preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007. Available online: ://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/2007IP/2007isolationPrecautions.html.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Current as ofDecember 7, 2017
Current as of:
December 7, 2017