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A complete guide to different types of insulin

A complete guide to different types of insulin


The beta cells present in our pancreas stand responsible for producing insulin which helps in using and storing the glucose present in our body that comes from the carbohydrates we consume in our diet. Glucose circulates in our bloodstream and is a necessary element for performing various body functions and is also utilized by different cells for producing energy.


When our body becomes incapable of producing enough insulin, as it happens in the case of type 1 diabetes, or acts resistant in proper usage of insulin, as it happens in the case of type 2 diabetes, the cells in our body do not have access to the energy they actually require. On the other hand, the glucose levels in our bloodstream start increasing, which can result in some severe consequences. Thus, it becomes imperative to use manufactured insulin to gain control over blood sugar levels. Here in this guide, we will discuss the different insulin, their uses, and how they can be taken to manage your blood sugar level:


Basal and Bolus insulin

The pancreas in our body is capable of producing insulin in two different manners:


Basal insulin: It is also known as background insulin and helps in regulating the glucose level between different meals. Whether a person consumes food or not, basal insulin is released 24 hours a day and maintains a normal range of blood sugar all the time. 


Bolus insulin: Bolus insulin helps in managing the rise in glucose levels that pops up immediately after having food.


Basal bolus insulin therapy

When our body fails to produce the insulin required for managing the blood glucose level, people suffer from diabetes and thus are required to take supplemental insulin to replace basal and bolus insulin. The basal bolus insulin therapy involves the consumption of different insulin combinations for insulin treatment.


Basal insulin provides a continuous source of insulin that helps in lowering the glucose level and is a long-acting insulin that stays active for 24 hours. It is usually taken during dinner or before going to bed. It helps in keeping the blood sugar level steady even when a person is not eating and aids in converting sugar into energy in a more efficient manner.


On the contrary, Bolus insulin is more aggressive and powerful insulin that has a strong effect on lowering the blood sugar level but is short-lived. It is helpful for people who have extremely high blood sugar levels and is taken after every meal to manage the rising blood sugar levels. It is a rapid-acting insulin that works for two to four hours.


Characteristics of insulin

Before we proceed ahead to list down the different types of diabetes insulin, let us first understand a few basic terms concerned with insulin:


  • Onset: It is the time period before the insulin actually hits the bloodstream and starts its action of lowering blood glucose.


  • Peak: Peak can be thought of as the time period during which the insulin works with maximum effectiveness in lowering blood sugar levels.


  • Duration: It is the span of time until which the effect of insulin persists aiding in lowering the blood glucose level.


Different types of insulin:

Basically, there are six types of insulin, as mentioned below:


Rapid Acting insulin

This insulin is generally taken before meals and is usually used with other longer-acting insulins.

  • Onset action: 15 minutes
  • Peak: 1 hour
  • Duration: 2 to 4 hours


Regular/Short-acting insulin

This insulin is also taken before meals at least 30 to sixty minutes before having food.

  • Onset: 30 minutes
  • Peak: 2 to 3 hours
  • Duration: 3 to 6 hours


Intermediate-acting insulin

This type of insulin is often used along with short-acting and rapid-acting insulins. It is capable of covering insulin needs for half a day or overnight.

  • Onset: 2 to 4 hours
  • Peak: 4 to 12 hours
  • Duration: 12 to 18 hours


Long-acting Insulin

It covers the need for insulin for a whole day. It includes Lantus insulin, Levemir, Tresiba, and Semeglee. When required, this insulin is often used coupled with rapid and short-acting insulin.

  • Onset: 2 hours
  • Peak: minimal or no peak
  • Duration: About 24 hours


Ultra-long Acting Insulin

Ultra-long acting insulin is capable of providing steady insulin for an extended period. It includes Toujeo insulin.

  • Onset: 6 hours
  • Peak: no peak
  • Duration: 36 hours


Premixed insulin

Premixed insulin is a combination of regular and intermediate-acting insulin and is used by people who are in need of both types of insulin. It is taken at least 10 to 30 minutes before having breakfast and dinner.

  • Onset: 5 to 60 minutes
  • Peak: peak may vary
  • Duration: 10 to 16 hours


How Can Insulin Be Taken? 


Insulin is usually taken with the help of an insulin syringe. There are marked lines on the syringe that indicate the amount of medication, and a person with diabetes can self-administer the quantity of insulin taken as per the prescription of the doctor and use the same as per the doctor’s instructions. Besides injecting insulin, here are a few other options that can be used for taking insulin:


  • Insulin pens
  • Jet injection
  • Insulin pumps
  • Inhaled insulins


Dr Anshuman Kumar
Diabetes Care
Meet The Doctor
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