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Insulin Therapy - The Basics

Insulin Therapy - Frequently Asked Questions


Updated November 02, 2011

Insulin Therapy - The Basics

Insulin vials and syringe

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Insulin therapy is part of life for those with type 1 diabetes. Here are some of the most common questions asked about insulin therapy.

Why Do I Need to Take Insulin?

When you have type 1 diabetes, it means your pancreas no longer produces insulin. Insulin is necessary to process the glucose that ends up in your bloodstream as a result of the food you eat. So, since you cannot produce insulin on your own, you must get it from another source. All insulin produced in the United States is genetically engineered to closely replicate the type of insulin your body would normally produce if you did not have diabetes.

How Often is Insulin Injected?

Most people with type 1 diabetes start off with at least two injections a day and may have as many as four or more, depending on your doctor’s assessment of your need. As inconvenient as multiple injections each day may sound, research has shown that more daily insulin doses provide better control of blood glucose. And better glucose control means reducing the risk of short and long-term health complications.

Where Should I Inject My Insulin?

Where you inject your insulin has an effect on how quickly it goes to work in your body. For example, insulin injected into your abdomen works faster than when you inject it into your thigh or buttock. It’s usually preferable to inject the insulin in the same muscle group each time so you can predict speed of delivery. But it is important that you rotate the exact location of the injection to avoid developing lumps under the skin.
How to Give an Insulin Shot

Are There Different Types of Insulin?

Fortunately, there are a number of different types of insulin available to fit everyone’s lifestyle. Although there are several variations, the main types of insulin are:
  • Rapid-acting
    Starts to work in about 5 minutes, reaches the peak of effectiveness in about one hour and continues working for up to four hours.

  • Regular or Short-acting
    This type of insulin begins to work in about 30 minutes, reaches the peak of effectiveness anywhere between two and three hours and continues working up to six hours.

  • Intermediate-acting
    Usually begins to work in two to four hours, reaches the peak of effectiveness anywhere between two and three hours and continues working up to six hours.

  • Long-acting
    Usually begins to work in six to ten hours and continues working up to 24 hours.

Is a Shot the Only Way to Take Insulin?

No. You can learn more about the several methods of delivering insulin, such as the use of insulin pumps, by watching this video.

Will I Ever Be Able to Stop Taking Insulin?

Because insulin is necessary to survive, you must continue to take insulin as long as you live or until a cure for diabetes is found. But there are alternative devices for delivery of insulin besides manually using a syringe. There are also a number of research studies being conducted that are searching for ways to deliver insulin without the use of a needle.


Insulin Basics. University of California, San Francisco Diabetes Teaching Center. Accessed August 18, 2008. http://ucsf.mightyminnow.com/type1/diabetes-treatment/medications-and-therapies/type-1-insulin-rx/insulin-basics.html

Insulin Routines. American Diabetes Association. Accessed August 17, 2008. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/injections.jsp

The Basics of Insulin. American Diabetes Association. Accessed August 17, 2008. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/basics.jsp

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