The primary job of insulin is to help cells absorb glucose, ensuring they have the energy needed for proper functioning. However, disruptions in insulin production can lead to elevated blood sugar levels in diabetes.

This issue becomes more critical when we look at the widespread impact of diabetes worldwide. As per the World Health Organization, around 422 million individuals are living with diabetes. Shockingly, diabetes directly contributes to 1.5 million deaths each year. 

A good knowledge of insulin plays a crucial role in navigating diabetes.

That is why we are familiarizing you with the various types of insulin and their specifications. 

Types of Insulin

Each category of insulin serves a unique purpose, catering to different needs of blood glucose control. Here’s a detailed explanation of each type:

Rapid-Acting Insulin

Rapid-acting insulin, such as lispro or aspart, is engineered for swift action. Administered just before meals, it mimics the body’s natural response to food intake, controlling post-meal blood sugar spikes. Its onset typically occurs within 15 minutes, making it a valuable tool for managing immediate glucose needs.

Examples of rapid-acting insulin are NovoLog (insulin aspart), Humalog (insulin lispro), and Apidra (insulin glulisine). NovoLog is rapidly absorbed, while Humalog has a quick onset. Likewise, Apidra accommodates individuals with diverse mealtime needs, providing flexibility.

Short-Acting Insulin

Short-acting insulin has a slightly delayed onset compared to its rapid-acting counterpart. It helps cover meals and snacks and manages glucose levels during food intake. Administered approximately 30 minutes before meals, it controls post-meal blood sugar spikes.

Popular products in this category are Humulin R and Novolin R. 

Intermediate-Acting Insulin

Intermediate-acting insulin, such as NPH insulin, works longer than rapid or short-acting counterparts. It is a valuable instrument for regulating blood sugar levels during meal intervals and throughout the night.

Brands like Humulin N and Novolin N are examples of intermediate-acting insulin. 

Long-Acting Insulin

Long-acting insulin, including insulin glargine and insulin detemir, assumes the role of basal insulin. Administered once or twice daily, it provides a steady insulin release over an extended period, establishing a baseline insulin level between meals and overnight. This action supports background glucose control.

Notable examples include Lantus (insulin glargine), Levemir (insulin detemir), and Toujeo (a concentrated form of insulin glargine). 

Premixed Insulin

Premixed insulin blends rapid or short-acting insulin with intermediate-acting insulin in one formulation. This combination serves the dual purpose of immediate and longer-term blood sugar control. Premixed insulin simplifies dosing for those who benefit from a combination approach. 

Common brands in this category include Humalog Mix and NovoLog Mix, offering options for individuals seeking a balance between flexibility and simplicity in their insulin regimen.

It is important to note that although doctors may prescribe a specific insulin administration schedule, certain situations may require adjustment of dosages. 

Factors Influencing Insulin Needs and Dosage Adjustments

Navigating insulin needs is like fine-tuning a personalized symphony for diabetes management. Here, we’ll explore the unique factors that influence how much insulin an individual might need and what factors can contribute to dosage adjustments:

Body Weight

In diabetes, body weight influences insulin needs. Higher weight may require more insulin, and changes in body weight may require dosage adjustment. 

Dietary Considerations

Food types, composition, and meal timing significantly impact blood glucose levels. Understanding these dietary factors is crucial for tailoring a practical and personalized approach to insulin management. Fine-tuning insulin doses frequently coincides with particular nutritional choices.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity, reducing the need for insulin. However, the type and intensity of physical activity may influence the type and dosage of insulin. 

Stress and Illness

Stressful periods trigger physiological responses, such as increased cortisol levels, which lead to insulin resistance and blood sugar spikes. Adjusting insulin doses is necessary to address this condition. Similarly, fever and diarrhea can also disrupt blood glucose levels, requiring a dosage review.

Managing Insulin Injections and Storage

Proper administration and storage of insulin are crucial aspects of effective diabetes management. This section provides detailed guidance on optimizing insulin injections and ensuring the integrity of stored insulin.

Subcutaneous Injection Guidelines

The most common method of administering insulin is ” under the skin ” injection. Using the proper technique ensures optimal absorption and minimum discomfort. 

  1. Choose an insulin syringe with an appropriate needle length and gauge. 
  2. Identify the injection site, typically in the fatty tissue beneath the skin. Common injection sites include the abdomen, thighs, and upper arms. 
  3. Before injecting, wipe the injection site with an alcohol swab to prevent the risk of infection. Allow the area to dry completely before inserting the needle.
  4. Pinch the skin slightly to create a subcutaneous fold, and insert the needle smoothly into the tissue.
  5. Administer the insulin at a slow, steady pace to enhance absorption. Rapid injections may cause discomfort and compromise absorption rates.
  6. After injecting, gently release the skin fold and withdraw the needle at the same angle. Avoid massaging the injection site, as this may affect insulin absorption.
  7. Rotate injection sites within the chosen region to prevent the development of lipohypertrophy. A systematic rotation ensures even absorption and reduces the risk of complications over time.

Storage Considerations

Proper storage maintains the efficacy of insulin. Follow these essential guidelines to ensure the safekeeping of your insulin supply:

  1. Keep insulin in a cool place. Avoid freezing, extreme heat, and direct sunlight. Insulin exposed to extreme temperatures may lose potency. Keep insulin away from radiators, heaters, and heated car interiors.
  2. Note the expiration date on insulin packaging. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for its specific shelf life. 
  3. Insulin is sensitive to light. Store the vial in its original packaging or a dark-colored container to maintain its stability and effectiveness.
  4. If a specific insulin product requires refrigeration, store it in the refrigerator. However, avoid placing insulin directly in the freezer compartment, as freezing can damage the quality of the insulin. Before use, allow refrigerated insulin to reach room temperature to avoid discomfort during injection.
  5. Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, you can keep insulin pens or vials at room temperature for up to 28 days. 
  6. Freezing temperatures can cause insulin to lose its effectiveness. If you see signs of freezing, such as crystal formation, do not use it. 
  7. When traveling, use an insulated bag with a cold pack. Ensure that the insulin is safe from extreme temperatures during transit.

Key Takeaway

Exploring the varied types of insulin and their mechanisms provides a foundation for informed decision-making in diabetes management. Factors influencing insulin needs, dosage adjustments, and storage tips contribute to a holistic approach to diabetes management. 

How is the use of insulin different today than it was several years ago?

The use of insulin has significantly evolved in recent years. Modern insulin formulations offer improved options, such as rapid-acting and long-acting analogs, providing more precise control over blood sugar levels. Technological advancements like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems allow for better customization and delivery, offering individuals with diabetes greater flexibility in managing their condition. Additionally, the development of more convenient administration methods, such as pens and smaller needles, has enhanced the overall ease and comfort of insulin therapy, improving the quality of life for those requiring insulin for diabetes management.