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types of insulin are categorized according to how fast
they start to work (onset) and how long they continue to work (duration). The
types now available include rapid-, short-, intermediate-, and long-acting
Injectable insulin is packaged in small
vials (bottles) and cartridges that hold more than one
dose and are sealed with rubber lids. The cartridges are used in pen-shaped
devices called insulin pens.
Insulin usually is given as
an injection into the tissues under the skin (subcutaneous). It can also be
given through an
insulin pump, an
insulin pen, or jet injector, a device that sprays the
medicine into the skin. Some insulins can be given through a vein (only in a
Research is ongoing to develop not only new forms of
insulin but also insulin that can be taken in other ways, such as by mouth.
Insulin lets sugar (glucose) in the
blood enter cells, where it is used for energy. Without insulin, the blood
sugar level rises above what is safe for the body. If the cells don't get sugar to use for energy, they try to use other nutrients in the body. When this happens, acids can build up. Too much acid production (ketoacidosis) can be serious or even life-threatening.
Your body uses
insulin in different ways. Sometimes you need insulin to work quickly to reduce
blood sugar. Your body also needs insulin on a regular basis to keep your blood
sugar in a target range.
Insulin is used to treat:
Insulin is effective in reducing
blood sugar levels by helping sugar (glucose) enter the cells to be used for
Some things that affect
how fast and how well an insulin dose works are:
Know how to give an insulin injection.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for
a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all
insulin pump provides a way to give insulin with less
frequent injections, and it is as effective as multiple daily injections at keeping
blood sugar levels in a target range.
Don't share insulin pens with anyone else who uses insulin. Even when the needle is changed, an insulin pen can carry bacteria or blood that can make another person sick.
The long-acting insulin
glargine (Lantus) may help prevent some people from having frequent nighttime
low blood sugar levels. It may also help people who have had
difficulty keeping their blood sugar levels in their target range with
Giving short-acting insulin at the
evening meal and NPH at bedtime instead of giving them together at the evening
meal may reduce the risk of
nocturnal hypoglycemia and
Label each insulin bottle when you use it
for the first time.
Store insulin properly so that its effectiveness is
When you buy insulin, check the generic or brand names
to make sure you are buying the correct type. For example, if you have been
using Humulin R (insulin regular), make sure you buy Humulin R instead of
Humulin N (insulin NPH).
Know when your prescribed types of insulin start working
(onset), when they work most (peak), and how long they work
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Guideline for isolation precautions: Preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/2007IP/2007isolationPrecautions.html.
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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