Insulin is a natural hormone made in your pancreas. It moves blood glucose from your blood into your cells. If your body cannot produce its own insulin, it may be necessary to take insulin in order to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. Insulin can be injected using a syringe or a pen, or through an insulin pump. Insulin cannot be taken in pill form because the acids in the stomach will break it down.
There are a variety of insulin types, brands and sources. Healthcare professionals often prescribe 2 types of insulin: mealtime insulin and background insulin. Mealtime insulin (bolus) is used to control after-meal blood glucose. Background insulin (basal) is used to meet your needs throughout the day and night.
By observing how the insulin you use affects your blood glucose levels, you may better monitor your blood glucose levels. Each type of insulin has 3 characteristics:1
- Start, or onset—how long it usually takes for insulin to start working.
- Peak—the time when the insulin is working hardest.
- Duration—how long the insulin usually stays in your body.
Make a point of knowing the characteristics of the insulin(s) you use and understand how they affect your blood glucose levels. Also know the name/s and the amount of insulin you are using.
Insulin Delivery Methods
Because people with type 1 diabetes do not produce their own insulin, they need to supply their bodies with insulin from an outside source. There are currently 3 main insulin delivery methods:
- The insulin pump is about the size of a pager and is connected to a tubing with a needle at the end which is inserted into your abdomen. The pump delivers insulin to the body 24 hours a day.
- Insulin pens are the most common way people with diabetes deliver insulin to their bodies. They look like writing pens and use prefilled insulin cartridges. You put a needle on the pen, dial a dose and inject the insulin.
- Injections, or shots, are another way of giving insulin. It involves drawing a dose of insulin from a bottle into a syringe and injecting it into the body
1International Diabetes Foundation. About Insulin. Available at http://www.idf.org/home/index.cfm?node=1396. Accessed on November 13, 2008