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Insulin Therapy and Its Role in Managing Your Diabetes

Learn more about insulin therapy for managing diabetes


All people with Type 1—and some with Type 2—rely on an insulin therapy in order to control their diabetes.There are a variety of insulin preparations that perform in different ways, and may be needed at different times of the day. Your physician will help you work out a plan for which of the different types of insulin to use and when.

A very simple pattern might look like this: At bedtime, a shot is injected; this is called the “basal” insulin. This would be a long-acting, time-released insulin that will last throughout the night to control the glucose produced by the liver. (This is also called “background” insulin.) But a different insulin may be needed to cover the glucose produced as you digest a meal. You might inject a rapid-acting insulin, which would work to cover the rise in glucose that results when you digest the carbohydrates in the food. That dose may have to vary, depending on how many carbs have been eaten and how high or low the glucose level may be at the time of injection.

Insulin delivery systems

You can take insulin with pens, syringes, or pumps according to your personal preference. Newer devices and shorter needle lengths are available to make taking insulin easier.

Insulin pens are loaded with a cartridge that contains insulin. They are convenient, easy to carry, and ensure accurate dosing. A needle tip is added. You will need a separate insulin pen for each type of insulin you use. If you need to use two types of insulin at the same time, you will need two separate pens and give yourself an injection from each pen.

Syringes today are smaller than ever and have ­needles with special coatings so injecting is as painless as possible. If you need to use two types of insulin at the same time, and they are not available in a premix formula, you can mix the insulin and give yourself only one injection.

Insulin pumps are a safe, effective way to deliver insulin and are most often used by people who need multiple injections of insulin for their diabetes. The device involves a small catheter, which is inserted under the skin, and a pump, which is about the size of a pager, that is worn outside the body.

Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about which device is right for you.

Five good reasons to take insulin

  • It will help you feel better if oral medications are not controlling your blood glucose levels adequately.
  • It will lower your risk of diabetes-related complications.
  • Because insulin is available in fast-, medium- and long-acting forms, you can tailor your insulin regimen and doses to your lifestyle, and make changes day-to-day if you need to, based on when and what you eat.
  • Tailoring your insulin regimen to your circumstances can help you avoid the uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous symptoms of glucose highs and lows.
  • You can choose the insulin delivery method (syringe, insulin pen or pump) that best suits your lifestyle.