No matter how long you’ve been following a prescribed insulin treatment plan, sometimes you may require a change in your insulin.

This can happen for several reasons, including:

  • hormone changes
  • aging
  • disease progression
  • changes in diet and exercise habits
  • weight fluctuations
  • changes in your metabolism

Read on to learn about making the transition to another insulin treatment plan.

The A1C test, also called a hemoglobin A1C test (HbA1c), is a common blood test. Your doctor uses it to gauge your average blood sugar level over the previous two to three months. The test measures the amount of sugar attached to the protein hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Your doctor also often uses this test to diagnose diabetes and establish a baseline A1C level. The test is repeated as you learn to control your blood sugar.

People without diabetes usually have an A1C level of between 4.5 to 5.6 percent. A1C levels of 5.7 to 6.4 percent on two separate occasions signify prediabetes. A1C levels of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicate you have diabetes.

Talk to your doctor about the appropriate A1C level for you. Many people who have diabetes should aim for personalized A1C levels below 7 percent.

How often you need an A1C test depends on factors like prescribed changes to your insulin treatment and how well you’re keeping your blood sugar level within target range. When you change your treatment plan and your A1C values are high, you should have an A1C test every three months. You should have the test every six months when your levels are stable and at the target you set with your doctor.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you might be able to treat your condition with lifestyle changes and medication, including:

  • weight loss
  • exercise
  • oral medications

But sometimes switching to insulin might be the only way to get your blood sugar levels under control.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two common groups of insulin:

Mealtime (or bolus) insulin

Bolus insulin, also called mealtime insulin. It can be either short- or rapid-acting. You take it with meals, and it starts working quickly. Rapid-acting insulin starts working in 15 minutes or less and peaks at 30 minutes to 3 hours. It remains in your bloodstream up to 5 hours. Short-acting (or regular) insulin begins working 30 minutes after injection. It peaks in 2 to 5 hours and stays in your bloodstream for up to 12 hours.

Basal insulin

Basal insulin is taken once or twice a day (often around bedtime) and keeps your blood sugar levels normal during periods of fasting or sleeping. Intermediate insulin starts to work 90 minutes to 4 hours after injection. It peaks in 4 to 12 hours, and works for up to 24 hours. Long-acting insulin begins working within 45 minutes to 4 hours. It doesn’t peak and stays in your bloodstream for up to 24 hours after injection.

Consult your doctor about changing your insulin treatment plan if you experience symptoms that include:

  • Frequent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar): Symptoms include feeling jittery, confused, weak, or clammy.
  • Frequent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar): Often there are no symptoms associated with high blood sugar levels­—some people may feel excessively tired, thirsty, have blurry vision, or urinate more often.
  • Blood sugar swings: Your A1C or daily blood sugar readings start to swing too high or too low from normal range for no obvious reason.
  • A change in your exercise regimen: A big change in how you exercise can make your blood sugar jump too high (if you stop normal activity) or too low (if you start a new exercise regimen).
  • Pregnancy: It’s crucial you to take extra care of your blood sugar during pregnancy for your health and your baby’s. You should discuss any changes made to your insulin treatment with your obstetrician.
  • A change in your sleeping routine: Your sleeping pattern can change for many reasons, like starting a new job or a different work schedule.
  • Need for insulin medication change: Most often this happens because of a change in what type of insulin your insurance will cover.

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