Insulin

Learn about types of insulin available

For many newly diagnosed diabetics, the first question on their mind is often, "what is insulin"? Insulin is the body's tool in regulating blood glucose level. Produced by the pancreas, insulin works with an insulin receptor, or enzyme, to break down the sugars and carbohydrates found in food. When your body doesn't produce natural insulin, the levels of glucose in your blood become dangerously high, and this can result in many different types of damage, from nerve and heart problems to coma and even death.

While many type 2 diabetics won't have to inject insulin (because their diabetes has more to do with the way their bodies process insulin rather than the production of insulin itself), almost all type 1 diabetics will have to take daily injections to maintain their blood sugar level.

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Maintaining Your Blood Glucose Level

For diabetics, it's absolutely vital to maintain a healthy blood glucose level. High blood sugar is dangerous in the long term, causing damage to almost all major organs. Low blood sugar is dangerous immediately because it can cause seizures and black-outs. Both can lead to diabetic coma or death.

Maintaining your blood glucose level means checking your blood sugar regularly with a small finger prick. This should be done before and after every meal in order to ensure that your body is properly using the food you've ingested.

Types of Insulin

There are several different types of insulin available for type 1 diabetics. While type 2 diabetics may take oral medication, this isn't the same as insulin. Insulin is injected directly into the body, using a needle or a pen.

The type of insulin you use will be determined by your diabetes care team. Some insulin, such as NPH insulin, is designed to be slow released (or slow acting) so that it treats high blood sugar throughout the day. Other types of insulin, such as lispro insulin, are fast acting (sometimes called rapid) and work to immediately break down the carbohydrates in the food you're eating.

You may also find that, throughout your lifetime, your insulin needs change. That's why it's so important for diabetics to have regular checkups and continue to work with a diabetes management team to ensure that daily blood sugar levels are controlled.