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The Facts About Insulin for Diabetes

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Has your doctor told you that you need to take insulin? You'll want to get familiar with what it is and how you use it.

Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar. There are many types of insulin used to treat diabetes. They include: 

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  • Rapid-acting insulin. This starts to work within a few minutes and lasts for a couple of hours.
  • Regular- or short-acting insulin. It takes about 30 minutes to work fully and lasts for 3 to 6 hours.
  • Intermediate-acting insulin. This takes 2 to 4 hours to work fully. Its effects can last for up to 18 hours.
  • Long-acting insulin. It can work for an entire day.

Your doctor may prescribe more than one type. You may need to take insulin more than once daily, to space your doses throughout the day, and possibly to also take other medicines. Your doctor will tell you exactly what you need. 

How Do I Take It?

There are several different methods. You can give yourself an insulin injection using a needle and syringe, a cartridge system, or pre-filled pen systems. Inhaled insulin, insulin pumps, and a quick-acting insulin device are also available.

If you use an injectable insulin, the place on the body where you give yourself the shot may matter. 

You'll absorb insulin the most consistently when you inject it into your belly. The next best places to inject insulin are your arms, thighs, and buttocks.

Make it a habit to inject insulin at the same general area of your body, but vary the exact injection spot. This helps minimize scarring under the skin.

What Are the Side Effects?

The major side effects include:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Weight gain when you first start using insulin
  • Lumps or scars where you've had too many insulin injections
  • Rash at the site of injection or over the entire body (rare)
  • With inhaled insulin, there's a chance that the lungs could tighten suddenly in people who have asthma or the lung disease COPD.

How Should I Store My Insulin?

If you use injectable insulin, always keep two bottles of each type of your insulin on hand. You can store the bottle that you are using at room temperature (not higher than 80 F) for 30 days. Keep it where it will not get too hot or too cold, and out of direct sunlight.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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