Insulin treatment for diabetes involves regular injections of the insulin hormone that helps the body lower blood sugar and store excess glucose for energy. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin naturally and require regular insulin injections to avoid serious, sometimes fatal, health problems caused by high blood sugar levels. Taking insulin by mouth does not lower blood sugar, which is why treatment must be delivered by either disposable pin or reusable syringe into the fatty layer of the skin. Insulin treatment for diabetes may also be required for people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes if diet and exercise changes or oral medicines that help the body to produce insulin fail to lower high blood sugar levels.
The types of insulin available today fall into four categories and are classified by how quickly the hormone reaches peak effectiveness after an injection and how long the insulin treatment controls blood sugar levels. Injections of rapid-acting insulin are typically delivered about 30 minutes before a meal; 30 minutes is about the time it takes for the body to absorb the hormone. Fast-acting insulin reaches its peak within two to three hours and wears off within six to eight hours after treatment.
Very rapid-acting insulin treatment for diabetes also peaks in about 30 minutes but lasts only about one to two hours, which helps some diabetics to control blood sugar spikes after eating. In comparison, intermediate-acting insulin is absorbed three to four hours after treatment, peaks after approximately seven to nine hours and can last as long as 12 to 16 hours. Long-lasting insulin reaches its optimum effectiveness about 10 to 12 hours after an injection and lasts from 16 to 18 hours. This type of therapy is most commonly used by diabetics who do not respond well to the faster-acting intermediate insulin.
Most diabetics use a combination of rapid-acting and intermediate-acting insulin to safely control their blood sugar levels throughout the day with minimal injections. Short-term injections several times a day before eating is a common insulin treatment for diabetes in children and teenagers and an alternative for adult diabetics who are not sure how their body will react to longer-acting treatment or who want more control over how and when their body will respond to an injection. The frequency of insulin treatment is determined by the individual’s physician and is based on the person’s age, lifestyle, health condition and eating habits.