How is Insulin Used for Diabetes?

Living with a disease like diabetes can be hard, but remember you are not alone. There are millions of people worldwide, who are fighting this disease like you. Also, there is no need to be afraid or be ashamed of it. Even though diabetes cannot be cured completely, it can be controlled and anyone can live a normal life with it.  

To effectively control and manage diabetes, you have to focus on one thing- Keeping your blood glucose levels within the ideal range. Let’s first find out what causes diabetes and how we can manage it.

What Causes Diabetes?

 Our body is made up of cells - trillions of them! These building blocks of the body need energy to carry out all the functions in our bodies. Whenever we eat, our food brakes down into a type of sugar called Glucose. This sugar is utilized by cells as a fuel to produce energy. Insulin is a hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas, which is an organ in the body. Insulin helps sugar (glucose) move from the blood into the cells to be used for energy.

Sometimes the pancreas does not produce any insulin or make enough of it. In such situations, when the body is not making insulin properly, you need to take man-made insulin to help control your blood sugar.

Diabetes is a condition in which sugar levels in your blood become very high in the absence of insulin. Sugar build-up in the blood may result in blood vessel damage, heart diseases, blurry vision or kidney failure etc.  

The most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. In type 1diabetes, body makes a little or no insulin at all. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day. Type 1 diabetes occurs often in younger people or children. Type 2 diabetes is a medical condition in which body makes less insulin which is not enough. It also prevents insulin from working properly. Almost 80 to 90% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. This is most common in older people or those who are overweight.

Insulin as a Life-Saving Medicine:

Insulin does the very important job of managing the blood sugar levels. Cell walls have little locks called receptors. Insulin fits into these locks like a key. Once these locks are opened by insulin, sugar enters the cells. But when the pancreas does not produce insulin or not enough insulin, sugar is locked out of the cells. That way sugar stays in the blood and ultimately becomes too high, causing hyperglycemia which leads to diabetes. People with diabetes (type 1 and type 2 both) are dependent on insulin sourced from outside, which means they need to take it as medication.      

Insulin is a life-saving medication and its discovery is one of the greatest achievements in the field of medical science.             

Types of Insulin:

There are five types of insulin that vary in how fast they start to work and for how long they can control the blood sugar. Your diabetes healthcare team will consider many factors such as the type of diabetes you have, glucose level in the blood, how often and how much your glucose level fluctuates, in determining which insulin type you need. Sometimes, you may be recommended a combination of more than one type of insulin.

  • Rapid Acting Insulin:- As the name suggests, the rapid acting or fast acting insulin works very quickly and taken shortly before or after meals. It starts working immediately and its effect lasts for a couple of hours. It is often taken together with intermediate-acting or long-acting insulin.        
  • Short Acting Insulin: - This insulin works in the same way as rapid acting insulin. Since it is slower, it takes about 30 minutes to start working at optimum level and lasts for 3 to 5 hours. Both Short acting and rapid acting insulin work perfectly in preventing blood sugar spikes after a meal.    
  • Intermediate Acting Insulin: - it is taken once or twice a day. It is also known as background insulin which works throughout the day. It takes 2 to 4 hours to work fully and lasts for 14 to 18 hours.
  • Long-Acting Insulin: - It is taken once in a day at the same time. It works for an entire day. It works quite similarly to intermediate acting insulin but at a slower pace.    
  • Mixed Insulin: - A combination of short-acting insulin and long-acting insulin results in mixed insulin.

When you are not eating for long hours, your liver releases glucose called glycogen to provide body the much needed energy. In such situations, long and intermediate acting insulin helps the body cells use this glucose and maintain a balanced glucose level.    

Supplying Insulin to the Body:

Unfortunately insulin does not come in the form of pills, so it cannot be taken orally. This is because of the fact that insulin is a type of protein which is broken down by the enzymes in the digestive system before it has a chance to work. Still there are a couple of options for insulin delivery, which your healthcare team will help you choose from according to your treatment needs.         

Insulin delivery options include:

  • Insulin shots: -.  Insulin is injected through a syringe and needle into the fat, mostly around the belly. These shots also use a pen like devices that holds the insulin with a needle attached. Insulin doses are injected many times throughout the day.
  • Insulin Pump: -   An insulin pump is used to push through small amount of insulin doses into a thin tube inserted underneath the skin. These doses are repeated multiple times a day.
  • Inhaled Insulin:- This is a rapid-acting type of insulin inhaled just before each meal. People with chronic respiratory and pulmonary diseases like asthma should avoid using inhaled insulin.   


The Bottom Line:-

It is highly recommended that you keep a close watch over your blood sugar levels for an effective diabetes control. Along with proper medication, a balanced diet and regular exercise help a lot in keeping the blood sugar in check.  Once you learn how to control it, you can live a normal life too!