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Diabetes: Types and Activity of Insulin

What is insulin used for?

Insulin is used to treat diabetes. It is a hormone normally made by the pancreas, which is an organ in your upper belly. Your body uses insulin to help move sugar from the blood into the cells, where it is used for energy.

Diabetes is caused by a problem with the way your body makes or uses insulin. When your body does not have enough insulin or has trouble using insulin, sugar cannot get into your cells. Instead, it stays in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can damage the blood vessels and organs.

  • If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin and you need to take insulin shots. Insulin cannot be taken as a pill because stomach acid destroys insulin.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or your body is not able to use it well. You may be able to take pills to help your body make more insulin or to better use the insulin you do make. In some cases you may need to take insulin.

You need the right kind of insulin at the right times during the day. The amount and kind of insulin is very important. If you take too much insulin or take it at the wrong time, you could have a serious low blood sugar reaction. If you don’t take enough insulin, sugar from digested food will stay in your blood, and your blood sugar will get too high.

How does it work?

Your body needs insulin to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where it is burned for energy. Your body cannot turn sugar into energy without insulin. If insulin is not available, sugar from digested food builds up in the blood.

There are 3 main types of insulin:

  • Fast acting insulin that starts to work in 10 to 15 minutes and lasts up to 4 hours
  • Intermediate acting insulin that starts to work in 1 to 2 hours and lasts up to 15 hours
  • Long acting insulin that starts to work in 1 to 2 hours and lasts 24 hours

Your healthcare provider may prescribe a combination of different types of insulin to match your eating schedule and lifestyle.

What else do I need to know about this medicine?

  • Follow the directions that come with your medicine, including information about how you should use it in relationship to food or alcohol. Make sure you know how and when you need to take the medicine. You should not take more or less than you are supposed to take.
  • Try to get all of your prescriptions filled at the same place. Your pharmacist can help make sure that all of your medicines are safe to take together.
  • Keep a list of your medicines with you. List all of the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all of the products you take.
  • Many medicines have side effects. A side effect is a symptom or problem that is caused by the medicine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the medicine may cause and what you should do if you have side effects.

If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-04-04
Last reviewed: 2014-03-17
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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