Know About Insulin for People With Diabetes
Metabolic Health

Insulin for People With Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone produced in the body by the beta cells in the pancreas. The main function of insulin is to keep blood sugar levels within the normal range. Insulin is responsible for absorbing glucose from the bloodstream into various tissues in the different organ systems. When there is a shortage of insulin, the blood sugar level in the bloodstream, i.e., the glucose builds up, and the tissue does not get enough glucose to convert into energy. 

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreatic cells do not produce insulin. So, insulin is required to be injected into the body regularly. This is for basic survival because the body cannot function without insulin. However, on the other hand, in type 2 diabetes, the insulin produced in the body is not sufficient. Thus, insulin injections are needed to manage blood sugar levels.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone responsible for controlling the glucose amount in your bloodstream at any given point. Released by the pancreas, it helps your body store glucose in muscles, fat, and the liver. It even regulates your body’s metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. If insulin doesn’t function properly, your muscles or liver won’t be able to store glucose or make fat. Instead, due to insulin resistance or low insulin, the fat may break down and produce keto acids, among other things. High levels of such acids can cause an imbalance and trigger a potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

Whenever you eat something, your blood sugar levels rise. In normal cases, it prompts the pancreas to release insulin, which can lead to glucose absorption for later use of energy generation. But if you have advanced Type 2 diabetes or Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas may not produce enough insulin, causing your blood sugar levels to rise to dangerous levels. It can also lead to blood sugar levels going down.

The Role of Insulin in the Body

If you have insulin diabetes, you may want to learn more about insulin’s role in our body to control the condition better. It can also help you understand the importance of insulin treatments and therapy. In non-diabetic people, insulin helps in the following ways:

Store Extra Glucose for Energy

Blood sugar levels get high after every meal. It is when insulin levels also get high and assist in storing the additional glucose in the liver in the form of glycogen. The liver releases this stored glycogen during periods when we don’t eat, and our insulin levels get low to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

After every meal, your consumed carbohydrates break into glucose (sugar), which are later used by your body to generate energy. Glucose then quickly enters the bloodstream, and the pancreas is signaled to release insulin. The released insulin assists glucose in entering the body’s cells to provide the needed energy.

If you are having diabetes with insulin resistance, your glucose levels will continue rising because the required insulin needed to push glucose into body cells is either missing or low in number. People with Type 1 diabetes make little to no insulin, while people with Type 2 diabetes have insulin deficiency or insulin resistance. If this condition remains untreated for long, it can lead to numerous other health conditions like kidney damage, blindness, nerve damage, etc.

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What is Insulin Resistance?

insulin the way they normally should. Your body cells may stop responding to the naturally produced insulin, and the one injected through medicine or a syringe. It leads to a significant rise in your blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance is a common condition found in people diagnosed with gestational diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. But it can also be found in people with Type 1 diabetes. Some people who are at an incredibly high risk of getting Type 2 diabetes can also have insulin resistance.

Starting on Insulin for Diabetes

Depending on the type of diabetes and severity, 4-5 insulin injections in a day may be necessary. For type 1 diabetes, usually, a pump is used to deliver insulin into the body. A new cannula is inserted under the subcutaneous layer of the skin every 2-3 days. Through the cannula, the insulin pump delivers the insulin into the bloodstream. However, for type 2 diabetes, if it is not too severe, simple changes in the diet, physical activity, and tablets can maintain the blood sugar levels. If tablets are not enough, getting started on insulin injections may become necessary. 

If insulin for diabetes must be started, your doctor will explain the following:

  • Types of insulin
  • When, where, and how to inject insulin?
  • How to rotate sites of injection?
  • How to store insulin?
  • What to do when blood sugar levels drop?
  • How to record blood sugar level and insulin dose?

Taking Too Much Insulin (Accidental)

If questions like ‘why inject insulin into fat’ or ‘where is insulin stored’ intrigue you, a quick online search can give you all the required answers. But have you ever wondered what exactly happens when you accidentally take an insulin overdose? It may sound scary, but such instances are not uncommon. If you accidentally take more insulin than needed, you may be exposed to an increased threat of severe hypos. In worst cases, people have felt disoriented, experienced seizures, and rare cases, have also seen death.

You should closely monitor your blood sugar levels for several hours if you have taken excessive insulin or mistakenly taken the wrong insulin. If you are feeling uneasy or your blood sugar levels are experiencing unusually high fluctuations, it is best to contact your doctor immediately.

Types of Insulin for diabetes

There are five types of insulin for diabetes. These groups are categorised based on their reaction time in the body. The doctor suggests a specific type of insulin based on various factors and the patient's medical history. 

The five main types of insulin are: 

  • Rapid-acting insulin
  • Short-acting insulin
  • Intermediate-acting insulin
  • Mixed insulin 
  • Long-acting insulin 

Insulin Injection Devices

Insulin isn’t available in pill form since the digestive system will break it down even before insulin starts to function. It is why healthcare providers use insulin injection devices to safely and effectively inject insulin into your body. There are primarily two types of insulin injection devices, i.e., insulin pumps and shots or pens. The doctor can pick any one device, depending on your requirement. If you want to quickly learn more about these devices, read below.

Insulin Pumps

An insulin pump is used when doctors want to push small yet steady, rapid-acting insulin doses. The insulin is inserted underneath your skin through a thin tube. Insulin doses are delivered repeatedly throughout the day. The market has different types of insulin pumps available, and the doctor may choose whatever option would work best for you.

Insulin Shots or Pens

Another way of injecting insulin into the fat just below your skin is by using a needle and syringe. A pen-like device holding insulin with a needle attached can also be used. The frequency of insulin injections using shots or pens will depend on your blood sugar levels, the type of diabetes you currently have, and the frequency of your meals.

Insulin therapy can look intimidating sometimes, but it is one of the most effective and ideal ways to control your blood sugar levels. If you face any discomfort or challenge while taking insulin injections, it is best to communicate it with your doctor. 

Insulin Diabetes Injection Sites

Insulin is usually injected into the fatty tissues of the body, called the subcutaneous layer. The abdomen is the most common region where the insulin is injected, as it absorbs the insulin quickly. 

Factors That Speed-up Insulin Absorption

Some factors which speed up insulin absorption are – injecting insulin into a highly mobile area (arms or thighs), high temperature (due to a hot shower, sauna, etc.), and massaging the area around the site of injection (for increased circulation). 

Factors That Delay Insulin Absorption

Some factors that delay insulin absorption are – lipohypertrophy (using the same injection site too frequently), cold insulin (if taken from the refrigerator), and smoking cigarettes. 

Disposal of Used Insulin Syringes

Disposal of syringes, pen needles, lancets, cannulas, insulin containers, etc., must be done carefully in puncture-proof containers with a secure lid. The procedure of disposal varies from country to country. 

Insulin Storage

The storage of insulin is very crucial. Unopened insulin bottles must be stored in the refrigerator on its side. The temperature for storing insulin must be maintained between 2°C and 8°C. Insulin must never be frozen or defrosted. Once the container or vial of insulin is opened, it should be kept at room temperature (around 25°C) and must be used within a month. It also needs to be disposed of safely. It is advised never to expose insulin to direct sunlight. Extreme temperatures affect insulin. 

Insulin Diabetes Safety

Insulin must not be used if it looks cloudy, has any deposits, flakes, or lumps, is beyond its expiry date, is frozen, is kept open at room temperature for more than a month, or is exposed to high temperatures. 

Record Your Blood Glucose Levels and Insulin Doses

A record of blood glucose levels and insulin doses is recommended as it helps keep track and adjust the insulin dose as required. 

Bottomline

Insulin is responsible for absorbing glucose from the bloodstream into various tissues in the organ systems. blood sugar level in the bloodstream increases when there is a shortage of insulin. Insulin is required to bring it back to normal levels. Also read about the insulin resistance.

FAQs

When does a diabetic need insulin?

Insulin in diabetes is required when the insulin produced in the body is insufficient or not effective enough. The decision regarding whether or not insulin therapy should be started in a particular patient with diabetes would depend on conditions like – HbA1c tests, fasting, post-meal sugar levels, antibody test, c-peptide test, etc. In case the beta cells of the pancreas are not producing insulin at all, characterizing type 1 diabetes, the person would most likely require insulin for diabetes. This would be administered to them in the form of an injection or via the insulin pump. For type 2 diabetes, often diet and exercise work well to improve insulin sensitivity. In some cases, insulin medication is required. For uncontrolled HbA1c levels, persistently high sugar levels, and inefficient working diet and exercise by themselves, insulin would be prescribed. 

Along with insulin, lifestyle changes are a must for the effective and optimal management of blood sugar levels. 

What are the side effects of insulin? 

Insulin is a hormone that is required in the treatment of diabetes and management of its symptoms like high blood sugar levels. It is necessary to administer insulin in type 1 diabetes and severe cases of type 2 diabetes. However, in some cases, human insulin can lead to certain side effects. In case you have diabetes with insulin and are experiencing certain side effects, it would be vital to report them to your doctor.

  • Redness, swelling, and itching at the site of the injection
  • Thickening of the skin (fat build-up)
  • Depression of the skin (fat breakdown)
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation

These are some of the common side effects that one could experience with insulin. In a few rare scenarios, the side effects can be a little more serious. 

  • Rashes and itching all over the body
  • Difficulty breathing and rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Significant weight gain in a short period
  • Swelling of the limbs

In case any of these symptoms are experienced, call the doctor immediately.

Is insulin better than tablets? 

Insulin and diabetes go hand in hand. Insulin via an injection or with the help of a tablet is expected to do the same job – increase the quantity of insulin in the body externally. At times, the dose in the tablet is not enough, or the requirement of the person is much more than a tablet can provide. They would need their insulin shots to be injected directly into the bloodstream as that method does the job faster and more efficiently. In case pills are not enough to control the levels of blood sugar in the body, doctors might recommend injections. Almost all type 1 diabetics are on insulin injections owing to the lack of insulin produced in their bodies. 

Does insulin damage your body? 

Hyperinsulinemia, or the unrestricted signaling of insulin, can increase the risk of obesity and certain cardiovascular diseases. Certain side effects are also noted with the injection of insulin. Taking the required amount of insulin is vital. An overdose of insulin can lead to low blood sugars that can be devastating to the body and can also be fatal.

How safe is insulin? 

Most of the population (people with diabetes) who take insulin might not experience any side effects associated with the hormone. However, a few cases of insulin allergies have been reported that can lead to side effects and damage to the body. Most often than not, insulin is known as a safe and reliable treatment for diabetes and different combinations of insulin can be used in case certain types cause some negative effects.

Is insulin better for diabetes?

If you have type 1 diabetes then injecting insulin works wonders for you as your body is not able to produce and meet its insulin requirements. Insulin helps you to maintain your blood sugar levels. Insulin is also better for people with type 2 diabetes at times. If a type 2 diabetic A1C is above 9% then injecting insulin manages to maintain the blood sugar level in the desired range.

What Does Insulin do for Diabetics?

If you have diabetes, your body cells fail to absorb glucose from the bloodstream naturally, gradually increasing the sugar levels in the blood. Insulin helps easily absorb blood glucose in cells, so it can be stored and used later for energy generation. When insulin is injected, it signals the liver to store blood glucose for later use, reducing glucose levels in the bloodstream.  

What Kind of Insulin is Used for Diabetes Reversal or Treatment?

Generally, intermediate-acting, long, and ultra-long insulin are used for diabetes reversal or treatment. Such insulin helps the body cells use glucose, preventing blood sugar levels from rising too high. NPH (Humulin N, Novolin N, etc.), glargine (Lantus, Toujeo, etc.), degludec (Tresiba), and determir (Levemir) are some examples of insulin used widely for diabetes treatment or reversal.   

Should Type 2 Diabetics Take Insulin?

If other treatments are not giving the desired result, doctors may prescribe insulin therapy for better results. Insulin therapy or treatment prevents aggravating diabetes complications. In simple terms, it helps keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range. Insulin is injected into the fat stored below your skin via a syringe or pen-like device that holds insulin with a clean needle attached.

Does Insulin Damage Your Kidneys?

High or low Insulin levels can harm your kidney and other organs. Insulin is a hormone that controls the sugar amount in your bloodstream. So if insulin fails to help cells absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood, the extra sugar accumulation in the bloodstream can eventually damage the kidneys. If you let this condition persist, the high amount of sugar in your blood can lead to kidney failure or kidney disease.

Which is Better, Insulin or Metformin?

It depends on the medical condition one has. Insulin and metformin are used to treat diabetes. However, the biggest difference between metformin and insulin is that the latter is used to treat type 1 and 2 diabetes, while metformin is used to treat only type 2 diabetes. Doctors also prescribe metformin to treat weight gain caused due to certain medications recommended for treating psychoses or polycystic ovaries.

Can You Get Off Insulin Once You Start?

Yes, you can get off insulin once you start. If you maintain a healthy lifestyle, like eating nutritious meals, exercising daily, etc., you can stop taking insulin therapy. However, this change will not occur overnight, so focus on making healthy life changes and let your doctor decide when is the best time to stop taking insulin medicines or injections.

Does Insulin Have Side Effects?

Yes, receiving continuous or intensive insulin therapy does have side effects. If you take insulin therapy for an extended period, you may develop hypoglycemia. Longer hypoglycemia periods often lead to permanent neuropsychological impairment. Research is also being conducted to learn more about the association between dyslipidemia and insulin. If you are taking human insulin, you may experience redness, itching, swelling, etc., at the injection site.

How Many Units of Insulin is Normal?

The normal insulin dosage will depend on your carbohydrate consumption, target blood sugar levels, and your activity levels. Initially, you may be recommended to proceed with four to six insulin doses, but it may increase by two to three units after a few days to meet your target blood sugar level. On an average, one insulin unit is recommended for every 12 to 15 grams of consumed carbohydrates. But there can be variations to it, depending on your insulin sensitivity.

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