An assortment of insulin vials and injection pens on a table in a pharmacy or clinic setting.

What are the types of insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels in the body. It is essential for individuals with diabetes to understand the significance of insulin in managing their condition effectively. There are various types of insulin available, each serving a specific purpose in controlling blood glucose levels.

Different types of insulin include rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting insulin. Rapid-acting insulin works quickly to lower blood sugar levels after meals, while short-acting insulin starts to work within 30 minutes and peaks in 2-3 hours. On the other hand, intermediate-acting insulin has a slower onset and lasts longer, and long-acting insulin provides a consistent level of insulin throughout the day and night.

Types of Insulin

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels. There are several types of insulin available, categorized based on their onset, peak, and duration of action. These types include:

  1. Rapid-acting insulin: Rapid-acting insulin analogs are designed to mimic the body's natural insulin response to meals. They typically start working within 15 minutes, peak in about 1 to 2 hours, and last for 2 to 4 hours. Examples include:

    • Insulin lispro (Humalog)

    • Insulin aspart (NovoLog)

    • Insulin glulisine (Apidra)

  2. Short-acting insulin: Short-acting insulin, also known as regular insulin, takes effect within 30 minutes to 1 hour after injection, peaks in 2 to 3 hours, and lasts for about 3 to 6 hours. It is often used to cover meals. Examples include:

    • Regular insulin (Humulin R, Novolin R)

  3. Intermediate-acting insulin: Intermediate-acting insulin has a slower onset and longer duration of action compared to rapid-acting and short-acting insulin. It starts working within 1 to 2 hours, peaks in 4 to 12 hours, and lasts for about 12 to 18 hours. Examples include:

    • Neutral protamine Hagedorn (NPH) insulin (Humulin N, Novolin N)

  4. Long-acting insulin: Long-acting insulin provides a basal level of insulin throughout the day and night, with minimal peak action. It starts working within 1 to 2 hours and can last for up to 24 hours or more, providing a steady release of insulin to help control blood sugar levels between meals and overnight. Examples include:

    • Insulin glargine (Lantus, Basaglar, Toujeo)

    • Insulin detemir (Levemir)

    • Insulin degludec (Tresiba)

  5. Ultra-long-acting insulin: Ultra-long-acting insulin analogs have an even longer duration of action than traditional long-acting insulin. They provide a more stable and prolonged blood sugar-lowering effect, often lasting more than 24 hours. Examples include:

    • Insulin degludec (Tresiba)

    • Insulin glargine U300 (Toujeo)

  6. Pre-mixed insulin: Pre-mixed insulin products combine two types of insulin (e.g., rapid-acting and intermediate-acting insulin) in one injection to provide both mealtime and basal insulin coverage. These products are convenient for people who need both types of insulin. Examples include:

    • Humulin 70/30

    • Novolin 70/30

    • Humalog Mix 75/25

    • Novolog Mix 70/30

Regular Insulin

Regular insulin, also known as short-acting insulin, is a type of insulin that has been used for many years to help manage diabetes. It is a human insulin that is identical to the insulin produced by the pancreas. Regular insulin typically takes effect within 30 minutes to 1 hour after injection, peaks in 2 to 3 hours, and lasts for about 3 to 6 hours.

  1. Onset of action: Regular insulin starts working relatively quickly, typically within 30 minutes to 1 hour after injection. This makes it suitable for covering meals and managing blood sugar spikes after eating.

  2. Peak action: Regular insulin reaches its peak action in 2 to 3 hours after injection. During this time, its blood sugar-lowering effects are most pronounced.

  3. Duration of action: Regular insulin typically lasts for about 3 to 6 hours. However, the duration can vary among individuals and may depend on factors such as injection site, dose, and activity level.

  4. Administration: Regular insulin is typically administered via subcutaneous injection into the fatty tissue under the skin. It can also be given via intravenous (IV) infusion in clinical settings.

  5. Indications: Regular insulin is commonly used to cover meals and control blood sugar levels throughout the day in individuals with diabetes. It can also be used in combination with intermediate-acting or long-acting insulin to provide both mealtime and basal insulin coverage.

  6. Storage: Regular insulin should be stored in the refrigerator prior to opening. Once opened, it can be kept at room temperature for up to 28 days. It should be kept away from direct heat and light.

  7. Dosage adjustments: Dosage adjustments may be necessary based on factors such as blood sugar levels, meal size, exercise, illness, and other medications. It's important to follow the recommendations of a healthcare professional when adjusting insulin doses.

Bottom Line

The right insulin type is crucial for managing diabetes. Different types cater to specific needs. Regular insulin acts quickly, while long-acting insulin provides a steady base. Understanding insulin timing is vital for optimal blood sugar control. Choosing the right insulin is essential for managing diabetes effectively. Consulting a healthcare provider for a suitable regimen improves diabetes management and quality of life.

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