Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body to absorb and use sugar (glucose) for energy. Insulin helps store glucose in your liver, fat and muscles, and ultimately controls the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. If you are living with diabetes, insulin therapy may be necessary in managing your condition. The frequency, amount, type of insulin used and the method of how you deliver insulin into the body can depend on the type of diabetes you have, lifestyle, preferences and what is best to match the needs of your body.
There are different types of diabetes, which can impact dependence on insulin immediately upon diagnosis, or the need to add it in the future.
Insulin is categorized by how it enters and works in the blood stream. It is helpful to understand how the insulin works including the onset (the length of time before it begins to lower blood sugar,) the peak (the time when it is at its maximum effectiveness at lowering blood sugar levels,) and the duration (the length of time insulin continues to lower your blood sugar levels).
The type of insulin you need can depend on several factors, including your overall lifestyle, how your blood sugar shifts during the day, as well as the type of diabetes that you have.
The different types of insulin are:
Insulin also comes in different strengths, though the most common is U-100 (100 units of insulin per millimeter of fluid).
In addition, insulin can be categorized into how it functions by referring to basal and bolus insulin. Basal insulin is also often referred to as a background insulin and provides the insulin needed between meals and while sleeping. Bolus insulin is used to cover carbohydrates consumed at mealtime and snacks, or if the blood sugar is above the target range and additional insulin is needed to lower the blood sugar.
How and when insulin is taken is different for each person and can change over time. Insulin is delivered under the skin, and there are different methods it can be taken. Syringes with vials and insulin pens deliver insulin through a needle. There is also a form of insulin that can be administered by inhaling when rapid acting insulin is needed. Those on bolus and basal regimens can also use an insulin pump which delivers insulin through a thin plastic tube which is changed out by the user.
How much insulin, as well as what type you need, will vary. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best course of insulin therapy for you.
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