Insulin FAQ

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Can insulin be taken as a pill?

Insulin is a protein. If insulin is taken as a pill, it will be broken down and digested even before it gets into the blood to lower your blood glucose. Therefore, insulin is available only in the form of injections till date. Recently insulin pumps have also been introduced.

How does insulin work?

Insulin lowers blood glucose by moving glucose from the blood into the cells of your body. Once inside the cells, glucose is utilized to provide energy. Insulin lowers your blood glucose whether you eat or not. Hence, it is important to synchronize your meals with insulin injections.

How often should I take insulin?

Most people with diabetes need at least two insulin shots a day for good blood glucose control. Some people take three or four shots a day to have a more flexible diabetes plan.

When should I take insulin?

You should take insulin 20-30 minutes before a meal if you take regular insulin alone or with a longer-acting insulin. If you take insulin lispro (Humalog), an insulin that works very quickly, you should take your shot just before you eat.

Are there several types of insulin?

Yes. There are five main types of insulin. Each of them work at different speeds and for different time periods. Many people may be advised insulin combinations.

The five types of Insulin are:

Single Component Insulins Onset of action* Peak activity* Duration of action*
Ultra short acting (insulin lispro) 15 to 20 minutes 1 hour 4 hours
Short acting (Regular or Soluble) 1/2 to 1 hour 2 to 4 hours 6 to 8 hours
Lente 1 to 2 hours 6 to 12 hours 20 to 24 hours
NPH (Isophane) 1 to 2 hours 6 to 12 hours 20 to 24 hours
Ultralente 4 to 6 hours 16 to 18 hours 24 to 36 hours
Protamine Zinc insulin 4 to 6 hours 14 to 20 hours 24 to 36 hours

Where on my body should I inject insulin?

You can inject insulin into several places on your body. Insulin injected near the stomach works fastest. Insulin injected into the thigh works slowest. Insulin injected into the arm works at medium speed. Ask your doctor to show you the right way to take insulin and in which parts of the body to inject it.

How should I store insulin?

  • If you use a whole bottle of insulin within 30 days, that bottle of insulin may be kept at room temperature. Keep the insulin bottle away from direct heat or sunlight. On the label, write the date that is 30 days away. That is when you should throw out the bottle with any insulin left in it.
  • If you do not use a whole bottle of insulin within 30 days, then store it in the refrigerator all the time.
  • If insulin gets too hot or cold, it breaks down and does not work. So, do not keep insulin in very cold places such as the freezer, or in hot places, such as by a window or in the car’s glove compartment during warm weather.
  • Keep at least one extra bottle of each type of insulin you use in your house. Store extra insulin in the refrigerator.

What are possible side effects of insulin?

The possible side effects of insulin may include:

  • A low blood sugar reaction (hypoglycemia)
  • Weight gain

What is insulin pump?

Insulin pump is a infusion device to provide continuous insulin infusion through a cannula placed under the skin (subcutaneously). It can be programmed to deliver insulin at a lower basal rate throughout and boluses before meals.

Are insulin pumps safe to use?

Insulin pumps are safe to use provided proper hygiene is maintained and site of infusions are frequently changed. However, sometimes ketoacidosis may result from interruption in insulin delivery.