Insulin Types

PD Medicine and Healthcare MHE 046 Insulin is a hormone in the body that helps control glucose levels in the blood. It helps transport glucose from the bloodstream to the cells for energy. Glucose is needed by all cells to perform their functions.

People with type 1 diabetes are unable to make insulin. While those with type 2 diabetes can make insulin, the body is resistant to it and unable to use it appropriately. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream and the cells become starved, which can lead to serious health problems.

Insulin Shots

If you have diabetes, you may need to take insulin shots to make up for your body’s inability to make or use naturally occurring insulin. You may need anywhere from 1-4 shots a day. Aside from a needle, the medication may also be given using a special pen or pump.

How much insulin you need depends on several factors, such as your:

  • Body weight
  • Body fat percentage
  • Physical activity level
  • Diet
  • Other medications that you take
  • Emotional health, including your level of stress
  • Overall health

Insulin Types

There are different types of insulin that your doctor may prescribe:

TYPE ALSO CALLED DESCRIPTION ONSET DURATION GENERIC NAMES
Rapid-acting insulin Mealtime insulin

Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtime Works quickly and does not last long

Lispro—15 minutes Aspart—15 minutes Glulisine—15 minutes Lispro—3-5 hours Aspart—3-5 hours Glulisine—3-5 hours Lispro Aspart Glulisine
Short-acting insulin Mealtime insulin

Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtime Works quickly and does not last long

30 minutes-1 hour 5-8 hours Regular insulin
Intermediate-acting insulin Basal insulin Background insulin

Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped working Slowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting

1-3 hours 10-16 hours NPH
Long-acting insulin Basal insulin Background insulin

Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped working Slowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting

1 hour 20-26 hours Glargine Detemir

There is also premixed insulin, which is a combination of two types. The mix usually consists of rapid- or short-acting insulin combined with intermediate-acting insulin.

You and your doctor will create a diabetes management plan that will outline steps for controlling your diabetes, which involves diet , physical activity, and medications like insulin. You may need to try different insulin doses or types until you find the regimen that works best for you.

  • American Diabetes Association

    http://www.diabetes.org

  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

    http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

  • Canadian Diabetes Association

    http://www.diabetes.ca

  • Public Health Agency of Canada

    http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

  • Blair E. Insulin A to Z: a guide on different types of insulin. Joslin Diabetes Center website. Available at: http://www.joslin.org/info/insulin%5Fa%5Fto%5Fz%5Fa%5Fguide%5Fon%5Fdifferent%5Ftypes%5Fof%5Finsulin.html. Accessed March 18, 2014.

  • Diabetes: insulin therapy. American Academy of Family Physcians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/diabetes/treatment/insulin-therapy.html. Updated January 2011. Accessed March 18, 2014.

  • Insulin management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 9, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2014.

  • Types of insulin. National Diabetes Information Clearinhouse website. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/medicines%5Fez/insert%5FC.aspx. Updated February 16, 2012. Accessed March 18, 2014.

  • Types of insulin and how they work. Group Health website. Available at: https://www.ghc.org/healthAndWellness/index.jhtml?item=%2fcommon%2fhealthAndWellness%2fconditions%2fdiabetes%2finsulinTypes.html. Updated March 1, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2014.

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