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.
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. The medication may also be given using a special injector pen or pump.
How much insulin you need depends on several factors, such as your:
- Residual insulin production
- Body weight
- Body fat percentage
- Physical activity level
- Other medications that you take
- Emotional health, including your level of stress
- Overall health
Here are different types of insulin that your doctor may prescribe and an approximate onset and duration of action:
Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtime Works quickly and does not last long5-30 minutes 3-5 hours Lispro Aspart Glulisine
Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtime Works quickly and does not last long30-60 minutes 5-12 hours Regular insulin (U-100)
Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped working Slowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting2-4 hours 10-18 hours NPH
Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped working Slowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting1-4 hours 18-24 hours Glargine (U-100) 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.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board - Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 06/2017 -
- Update Date: 07/14/2015 -