How important is insulin? Insulin is the primary controller of sugar in your blood, according to the American Diabetes Association. It tells the liver, muscles, and fat cells to store sugar as energy. And it allows the cells to absorb the sugar in the blood to use for fuel.

So what happens if you have type 2 diabetes? Your body can’t keep your blood sugar levels within normal limits. This happens because the cells are not able to use insulin. The pancreas is not able to produce enough, or any, insulin. You need external sources of insulin to keep your levels stable.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may already be on insulin. Insulin helps you maintain your target blood sugar levels. If you are new to insulin therapy, you might find treatment challenging.

Many people who have type 2 diabetes may find insulin therapy intimidating. But it’s not as difficult as you might think. Let this article serve as your insulin decision guide and help to ease your concerns.

Why should you take insulin?

Insulin is not prescribed to all people with type 2 diabetes. Most doctors prescribe metformin as the first-line drug in managing type 2 diabetes. Your doctor may prescribe oral medications if metformin isn’t helping you maintain your target blood sugar levels. These medications may include:

  • sulfonylureas
  • meglitinides
  • thiazolidinediones
  • injectable medications, such as insulin or GLP-1 receptor agonists.

Long-term insulin mimics the action of basal insulin in the body. This type of insulin is often the first type used. It’s consistent in maintaining the blood sugar levels during extended periods and during fasting. And basal insulin works with other types of diabetes medication.

Some treatments may start with long-term insulin injection and pills. Other treatments may use basal-bolus insulin. There are different diabetes medications, so talk to your doctor the type that’s best for you.

Which type of insulin should I take?

Your body has unique variables that your doctor needs to consider. These variables will affect the approach to treating your disease. This would include the types of insulin that will manage your blood sugar levels.

According to the Mayo Clinic, different types of insulin have different advantages. The advantages include their efficacy at the speed of the onset, duration, and peak time. There are five types of insulin available to manage your blood sugar levels:

  • Fast-acting: This type of insulin works within 15 minutes after the shot. It has a peak time that can last for an hour. The insulin wears off after three to five hours.
  • Short-acting: Short-acting or regular-acting insulin it taken at mealtime. It reaches the bloodstream in about 30 minutes after taking the shot. It peaks two to four hours after the shot and wears off after eight hours.
  • Intermediate-acting: This type of insulin works slower. It reaches the bloodstream one to three hours after the injection. It has a peak time of eight to 10 hours and wears off after 12 to 16 hours.
  • Long-acting: Long-acting insulin should be once or twice a day. It has the ability to lower the blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours. It does not peak.
  • Premixed insulin: Premixed insulin is a combination of both short- and intermediate-acting insulin. Some people with poor eyesight, issues with hand coordination, or other disabilities may use this type of insulin.

The decision about what type of insulin to use depends on your endocrinologist. They will let you know what option will be appropriate in managing your condition.

What type of delivery method should I use?

There are different types of insulin you can use to manage your blood sugar levels. And there are also different tools to deliver the insulin into your bloodstream. The main tools of delivery include syringes and pens.

Pens and syringes

Many people, with or without diabetes, are afraid of needles. If you’re scared of taking a shot, this is a normal reaction. That’s why many insulin shots are in pens, because they hide the needle. Also, the needle used nowadays in injecting insulin is smaller than conventional syringes.

The thickness and length of the needles used in both pens and syringes vary. There’s also a big difference when using pens or syringes.

Syringes draw the insulin from a small vial. And insulin pens come with a cartridge prefilled with insulin. This allows you to just dial up the insulin dose you need.

Insulin pump

Another type of delivery method is the insulin pump. This is an electronic gadget that automates dispensing insulin into the bloodstream. It’s recommended for people who need several injections every day. People with type 1 diabetes almost always use pumps.

Where should I inject the insulin?

You can inject insulin anywhere in your body as long as there’s a fat layer under the skin to inject into. The best sites for injection include the abdomen, back of your arms, and outer thighs.

It is important to rotate your injection sites. Otherwise scar tissues may develop if you inject in the same spot all the time. Also, do not inject too close to the belly button. 

Should I work with a diabetes educator?

Some people can get away without the help of a diabetes educator, so should you get one? This is a personal question, and one you should discuss with your family, friends, and doctor. A diabetes educator can help you with your management plan and can help you develop one you can stick to.

Your doctor can refer you to a diabetes educator or you can look for one at the nearest health center. You don’t have to work with a diabetes educator daily.

But until you feel comfortable with your treatment plan you’ll need to see them. You will also need to see your diabetes educator at least twice a year. This way, they can check your progress.

Should I change my lifestyle following my treatment?

You will need to decide on how to change your lifestyle once you begin your insulin treatment. It is important to manage your blood sugar level with diet, even if you take medication. But when you are on insulin, you need to be sure to manage when and how much carbohydrate you take in. This will help you avoid blood sugar levels becoming too low or too high. This is something your diabetes educator or dietitian can help you with.

Exercise is also important. It lowers blood sugar levels and reduces your risk for heart disease. But if you’re taking insulin, make sure to time your exercise, and manage the intensity. Make sure you check with your doctor for information on when to exercise. Also find out what form of exercise is best for you.