The different types of insulin and how to use them for diabetes treatment
- The major types of
insulininclude short-acting, rapid-acting, intermediate-acting, long-acting, ultra-long-acting, and inhaled.
- About 24% of people with
diabetesuse insulin, and they usually need a combination of short-acting and long-acting to regulate blood sugar levels.
- This article was reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family-medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine.
Insulin is a naturally-occurring hormone that helps the body regulate blood sugar, or blood glucose.
Healthy individuals produce all the insulin they need. But people with type 1 diabetes do not produce any insulin, so they need to take insulin injections.People with type 2 diabetes produce some insulin, but their body is not always able to use it effectively. Because of that, some people with type 2 diabetes also need to take insulin injections.
What does insulin do?
Insulin controls the amount of sugar in your blood by regulating the conversion of glucose into energy, or storage in the liver for future use.When you eat, your body takes in glucose from food, and your blood sugar levels rise. This triggers the release of insulin in healthy individuals. The insulin signals your cells to absorb glucose and use it as energy, which reduces your blood sugar.
An insulin injection helps facilitate this process for people with diabetes. Overall, roughly 24% of people with diabetes are treated using insulin.However, there are several different types of insulin that you can take. This depends on how well each person's body utilizes insulin, as well as their diets. "Patients who are more resistant to the effects of insulin or consume excessive amounts of carbohydrate, particularly simple sugars, require higher doses of insulin," says Joseph Barrera, MD, an endocrinologist with Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California.
Types of insulin
The types of insulin vary in the following ways:
- How quickly they take effect
- How long they last
- Their peak time (when they are most effective at reducing blood sugar)
- How they are taken
A standard strength insulin in the United States is U-100, which has 100 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid. Here are the most common types of insulin:
What type of insulin do I need?Most insulin-dependent diabetics need to use both a short-acting and long-acting insulin to control their diabetes.
"The long-acting insulin is injected once a day to provide a 'ceiling' of insulin coverage to prevent blood sugars from escalating and the short-acting insulin is injected prior to meals to cover the carbohydrate consumed at each meal," Barrera says.
Intermediate insulin and inhaled insulin are not as commonly used, because they don't provide flexibility in dosing, Barrera says, and they can be more difficult to precisely control.People with diabetes who are dependent on insulin will need to inject it, usually multiple times a day. However, if you dislike injecting insulin, you can talk to your doctor about getting an insulin pump, which delivers insulin continuously through a catheter. These can be paired with a continuous glucose monitor to deliver the correct dose of insulin.
Insulin is highly effective at treating diabetes, especially if you have type 1. But for most people with type 2 diabetes, it's best to regulate your blood sugar levels through healthy lifestyle changes, so that you do not need insulin, Barrera says."Type 1 diabetics must be treated with insulin, as their pancreas do not produce insulin," Barrera says. "However, type 2 diabetics, which comprise 90% of the diabetic population, can either avoid insulin or discontinue insulin altogether if they are able to achieve an ideal body weight through diet and exercise under the care of an experienced
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