Insulin is a hormone that plays a vital role in the body by regulating the amount of sugar in a person's bloodstream and storing any excess glucose for energy. When a person eats, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar that can be found in the bloodstream. This becomes a person's energy source, and when insulin levels are high, this sugar in the bloodstream, also known as glucose, is stored in the liver for later use between meals.
Those suffering from diabetes will experience a spike in the level of sugar in the bloodstream due to a lack of insulin. If left alone, high blood sugar levels will leave a person feeling dehydrated, increase the frequency of urination and can cause fatigue. If high blood sugars are not treated for some time, they can lead to more severe complications like kidney damage and blindness. Insulin injections are used to keep blood glucose at the appropriate level to avoid such complications.
How Diabetes Affects Insulin
Insulin is created inside the body's pancreas and is released after every meal to assist the body with using or storing the blood glucose that is broken down from food. Those suffering from type 1 diabetes are lacking insulin because the pancreas has lost the ability to create it, and insulin injections must be used as a substitute. Those suffering from type 2 diabetes have problems responding to their body's insulin and would require diabetes pills or insulin shots to assist with the use of glucose.
Types of Insulin
Those who require insulin injections have several different types of insulin to choose from, all with varying strengths. The most common strength for insulin is U-100, although U-40 may still be used outside of the United States.
There are three things to remember when choosing from the different types of insulin:
- The insulin's onset determines the amount of time needed for it to enter the bloodstream so that it can begin managing blood glucose.
- The insulin's peak-time is when it is at its maximum strength for lowering blood glucose.
- The insulin's duration is how long it will remain in the bloodstream, lowering blood glucose.
Here are the different types of insulin available:
- Rapid-acting insulin: This form of insulin can work as fast as 5 minutes after the injection has been administered and will peak at roughly 1 hour, and will continue to work anywhere from 2-to-4 hours.
- Regular insulin: This type of insulin will work within 30 minutes after injection and peaks at 2-to-3 three hours, and is effective for 3-to-6 hours.
- Intermediate-acting insulin: This type of insulin will work within 2-to-4 hours after injection, peaks at 4-to-12 hours, and is effective for 12-to-18 hours.
- Long-acting insulin: This form of insulin will begin to work 6-to-10 hours after injection and is effective for 20-to-24 hours.
Insulin injections are used mainly for those suffering from type 1 diabetes, although it may also be used for those suffering from type 2 diabetes. Insulin injections vary depending on what type of diabetes the person has. Insulin injections should be scheduled in accordance to meal times. Proper scheduling is important for finding the ideal time to allow insulin to enter the body to process the glucose from food that is eaten.
- Insulin injections for type 1 diabetes: Those with type 1 diabetes may start out with two injections of insulin per day, using a combination of two types of insulin available. They may gradually progress to three or four injections depending on how much their body needs to control blood glucose levels.
- Insulin injections for type 2 diabetes: One insulin injection each day can be used to substitute the use of diabetes pills for some people, while others might require both an insulin injection and diabetes pills. In cases where diabetes pills no longer work, those with type 2 diabetes might find themselves taking two, three or even four injections of insulin per day.
While a syringe is the most common form of insulin injection, there are insulin pens and pumps available as alternatives.
- Insulin pens: Insulin pens are similar to a syringe, where insulin is injected into the body through a needle. However, unlike a syringe, insulin pens hold a cartridge of insulin that is either inserted into the pen and later discarded, or the pen is pre-filled with insulin. This means that two injections must be administered in cases where the person needs two different types of insulin.
- Insulin pumps: An insulin pump can continuously supply insulin to a person's body 24 hours a day. A catheter connected to an insulin pump is inserted under the skin, and insulin is delivered to the body thought out the day. The type of insulin used for a pump is rapid-acting, meaning a person would no longer have to worry about scheduling time for injections between meals.