Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Its function is to allow other cells to transform glucose into energy throughout your body. Without insulin, cells are starved for energy and must seek an alternate source. This can lead to life-threatening complications.
Insulin is a natural hormone produced in the pancreas. When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin to help your body make energy out of sugars (glucose). It also helps you store energy. Insulin is a vital part of metabolism. Without it, your body would cease to function.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas initially produces insulin, but the cells of your body are unable to make good use of the insulin (insulin resistance).
Uncontrolled diabetes allows glucose to build up in the blood rather than being distributed to cells or stored. This can wreak havoc with virtually every part of your body. Complications of diabetes include kidney disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and stomach problems.
People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin therapy to live. Some people with Type 2 diabetes must also take insulin therapy to control blood sugar levels and avoid complications. Insulin is usually injected into the abdomen, but it can also be injected into the upper arms, thighs, or buttocks. Injection sites should be rotated within the same general location. Frequent injections in the same spot can cause fatty deposits that make delivery of insulin more difficult. Some people use a pump, which delivers insulin through a catheter placed underneath the skin of the abdomen.
Endocrine, Excretory, and Digestive Systems
When you eat, food travels to your stomach and small intestines where it is broken down into nutrients. The nutrients are absorbed and distributed via your bloodstream. The pancreas is an organ located in your abdomen between your stomach and your spine. This integral component of your digestive system produces insulin and releases it into the bloodstream when you eat. Insulin is an important part of metabolism and necessary for turning glucose into energy and distributing it to cells all throughout your body.
Insulin helps the liver, muscle, and fat cells to store the glucose you don’t need right away, so it can be used for energy later. In turn, the liver produces less glucose on its own. This keeps your blood glucose levels in check. The liver releases small amounts of glucose into your bloodstream between meals to keep your blood sugars within that healthy range.
When insulin enters your bloodstream, it helps cells throughout your body — including in your central nervous system and cardiovascular system — to absorb glucose. It’s the circulatory system’s job to deliver insulin.
As long as the pancreas produces enough insulin and your body can use it properly, blood sugar levels will be kept within a healthy range. A buildup of glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia) can cause complications like nerve damage (neuropathy), kidney damage, and eye problems. Symptoms of high blood glucose include excessive thirst and frequent urination. Too little glucose in the blood (hypoglycemia) can make you feel irritable, tired, or confused. Low blood sugar can lead to loss of consciousness.
When you don’t have enough insulin, your body’s cells begin to starve. Because the cells can’t use the glucose, they begin to break down fat for energy. In addition to a buildup of glucose in your blood, this process creates a dangerous buildup of chemicals called ketones. Symptoms include sweet-smelling breath, dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting. Your body tries to get rid of the ketones through your urine, but sometimes it can’t keep up. This causes a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis.
If you have diabetes, insulin therapy can do the job your pancreas can’t. Rapid-acting insulin reaches the bloodstream within 15 minutes and keeps working for up to four hours. Short-acting insulin enters the bloodstream within 30 minutes and works for up to six hours. Intermediate-acting insulin finds its way into your bloodstream within two to four hours and is effective for about 18 hours. Long-acting insulin starts working within a few hours and keeps glucose levels even for about 24 hours.
Blood tests can quickly indicate whether your glucose levels are too high or too low.