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Insulin Shots | Insulin Types

PD_Medicine and Healthcare_MHE_046Insulin 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:

TYPEALSO CALLEDDESCRIPTIONSTARTS WORKING INLASTS FORGENERIC NAMES
Rapid-acting insulinMealtime insulin

Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtime

Works quickly and does not last long

Lispro—15-30 minutes
Aspart—1-3 hours
Glulisine—rapid, faster than regular insulin
Lispro—3-6.5 hours
Aspart—3-5 hours
Glulisine—shorter than regular insulin
Lispro
Aspart
Glulisine
Short-acting insulinMealtime insulin

Usually taken before a meal to target the sugars consumed during mealtime

Works quickly and does not last long

30 minutes-1 hour6-10 hoursRegular insulin
Intermediate-acting insulinBasal insulin
Background insulin

Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped working

Slowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting

1-2 hours 10-20 hoursNPH
Long-acting insulinBasal insulin
Background insulin

Keeps blood sugar under control after rapid-acting insulin has stopped working

Slowly absorbed by the body and is long-lasting

1-2 hours20-24 hoursGlargine
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.

RESOURCES:

American Diabetes Association

http://www.diabetes.org

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Diabetes Association

http://www.diabetes.ca

Public Health Agency of Canada

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

References:

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_a_to_z_a_guide_on_different_types_of_insulin.html. Accessed October 14, 2013.

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 October 14, 2013.

Insulin management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated October 11, 2013. Accessed October 14, 2013.

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 February 12, 2012. Accessed October 14, 2013.

Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.