Insulin is what your body needs to use the food you eat for energy. Insulin is a hormone made by beta cells in your pancreas. It acts like a key that opens the door for the food (glucose) to leave your bloodstream and get into your cells.
This is what happens when you have diabetes.
- Your pancreas no longer makes any insulin or the insulin you have doesn't work.
- Without insulin to unlock the door for glucose, glucose can't get into your cells.
- Since the cells can't get any food (glucose), they starve for energy while glucose builds up in your blood.
- To help your body use glucose, you need to inject insulin through a syringe or insulin pump.
Types of Insulin
There are four types of insulin that work for different lengths of time. You and your D-team will work together to figure out which combination of insulins work best for you. Because everyone's body is different and reacts differently, it might take some time before you find the best combination.
- Rapid-acting insulin like Lispro (Humalog®), aspart (NovoLog®), or glulisine (Apidra®), is the fastest working of all insulins. Once you inject it, it starts to work (onsets) in about 5 minutes and works hardest (peaks) about an hour after injection. These insulin last (have a duration of) about 4 to 5 hours. It is taken right before meals. Rapid-acting insulin looks clear in the bottle.
- Short-acting insulin like "Regular" insulin is sometimes used around mealtime. It takes longer to work than rapid-acting insulin does. It's taken about 30-45 minutes before you plan to eat and it peaks about three to four hours later. It can keep working for as long as 6 hours after injection. It also looks clear in the bottle.
- Intermediate-acting insulin like "NPH" is insulin mixed with something that makes the body absorb the insulin more slowly. That's why this type of insulin looks cloudy and has to be mixed before it's injected. It takes longer (1/2-1 hour) to start working, peaks 4-10 hours after injection, and keeps working for 10-16 hours.
- Long-acting insulin like Glargine (Lantus®) or detemir (Levemir®) is like a marathon runner – lasting the longest. These insulins start working in 2-4 hours and can stay in the body for 24 hours with little or no peak. These insulins are clear and usually taken before bed.
Remember, everyone's body reacts to insulin in different ways. The onset, peak and duration times listed above are just averages. It may take you longer to peak on Regular (short-acting) insulin than it might take someone else.
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