Insulin is a hormone in the body that helps control glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. It helps transport glucose from the bloodstream to cells that use the sugar for energy.
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 (for both types of diabetes), 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. Aside from a needle, the medicine 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
- Emotional health (including your stress level)
- Overall health
There are different types of insulin that your doctor may prescribe:
Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtimeWorks quickly and does not last longAbout 15 minutes 3-5 hours Lispro (Humalog) Aspart (Novolog) Glulisine (Apidra)
Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtimeWorks quickly and does not last long30-60 minutes 4-8 hours Regular insulin (Novolin R)
Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped workingSlowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting1-3 hours 12-16 hours NPH (Novolin N)
Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped workingSlowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting1-2 hours 20-26 hours Glargine (Lantus)Detemir (Levemir)
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 medicines like insulin. You may need to try different insulin doses or types until you find the regimen that works best for you.
- Reviewer: Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH
- Review Date: 09/2011 -
- Update Date: 09/09/2011 -