No matter how long you’ve been following a prescribed insulin treatment, there may be circumstances beyond your control that will ultimately require a change in your insulin requirements.

This can happen for a number of reasons, including hormone changes, changes in diet and exercise habits, aging, disease progression, weight changes, and changes in metabolism.

While it may seem like a daunting task, the transition is probably easier than you think.

Your A1C Goal

The A1C test, also called a hemoglobin A1C test (HbA1C), is a common blood test used to gauge your average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. Specifically, the test measures the amount of hemoglobin in your red blood cells that are coated with sugar. This test is used when you are first diagnosed to establish a baseline A1C level, and then repeated as you start learning to control your blood sugar.

People without diabetes usually have an A1C level of 4.5 to 5.6 percent. For diagnosing purposes, if you have an A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests, this indicates you have diabetes. Talk to your healthcare provider about the appropriate A1C level for you, as people who have previously diagnosed diabetes are usually encouraged by their endocrinologist to aim for personalized A1C levels below 7 percent.

How often you need an A1C test depends on a number of factors, including doctor prescribed changes to your insulin treatment and how well you’re keeping your blood sugar level within your target range.

Switching from Oral Medication to Insulin

If you have type 2 diabetes, you might be able to treat your condition with lifestyle modifications, such as weight loss, exercise, and oral medications. But there may come a time when switching to insulin might be the only solution to get your blood sugar levels under control.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the two common types of insulin:

Mealtime (or Bolus) Insulin

Rapid-acting insulin is taken with meals and starts working in 15 minutes or less and remains in the bloodstream up to 5 hours. Short-acting (or regular) insulin is also taken at mealtime and begins working 30 minutes after injection. It stays in the bloodstream up to 8 hours.

Basal insulin

This type is taken once or twice a day (often around bedtime) and keeps blood sugar levels normal during periods of fasting or sleeping. Intermediate insulin works up to 16 hours after injection. Long-acting insulin stays in the bloodstream up to 24 hours after injection.

Switching Insulin Treatments

You should always consult your physician about changing your insulin treatment if you experience any of the following:

  • If you feel jittery, confused, weak, or clammy, you could be experiencing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). But you could be experiencing high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) if you feel tired, thirsty, have blurry vision, or are urinating more often.
  • If your A1C or daily blood sugar readings start to swing too high or too low from the normal range for no obvious reason.
  • If you make a drastic change in your exercise regimen. This can make your blood sugar drop too low.
  • If you become pregnant. It’s not only crucial for you to take extra care of your blood sugar during pregnancy for your own sake, but also for that of your unborn child. Any modifications made to your insulin should also be discussed with your obstetrician.
  • If your sleeping routine or patterns change because of a job or another reason.
  • If you experience an allergic reaction to insulin, or if your insulin becomes temporarily unavailable or obsolete.

Switching between types of insulin requires medical supervision, so always consult your physician or endocrinologist beforehand.