Insulin is a hormone in the body that helps control glucose (sugar) levels in the blood. It helps transport glucose from the bloodstream to cells that use the sugar for energy.
People with type 1 diabetes are unable to make insulin. While those with type 2 diabetes can make insulin, the body is resistant to it and unable to use it appropriately. As a result (for both types of diabetes), glucose builds up in the bloodstream and the cells become starved, which can lead to serious health problems.
If you have diabetes, you may need to take insulin shots to make up for your body’s inability to make or use naturally occurring insulin. You may need anywhere from 1-4 shots a day. Aside from a needle, the medicine may also be given using a special pen or pump.
How much insulin you need depends on several factors, such as your:
There are different types of insulin that your doctor may prescribe:
There is also premixed insulin, which is a combination of two types. The mix usually consists of rapid- or short-acting insulin combined with intermediate-acting insulin.
You and your doctor will create a diabetes management plan that will outline steps for controlling your diabetes, which involves diet, physical activity, and medicines like insulin. You may need to try different insulin doses or types until you find the regimen that works best for you.
American Diabetes Association
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Diabetes Association
Team Diabetes Canada
Blair E. Insulin A to Z: a guide on different types of insulin. Joslin Diabetes Center website. Available at: http://www.joslin..... Accessed August 18, 2011.
Diabetes: insulin basics. FamilyDoctor.org website. Available at: http://familydocto.... Updated October 2010. Accessed August 18, 2011.
Types of insulin and how they work. Group Health website. Available at: http://www.ghc.org... Updated December 2, 2009. Accessed August 18, 2011.
Last reviewed September 2011 by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH