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What to Ask Your Doctor About Insulin

Has your doctor prescribed insulin to help manage your type 1 or type 2 diabetes? You’ll want to know how and when to take it, what side effects could happen, and what other changes you may need to make.

Use this list of questions as a starting point when you talk with your doctor.

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What type of insulin do I need?

Insulin comes in four basic forms:

  1. Rapid-acting insulin starts to work within a few minutes after injection. Its effects only last for a couple of hours.
  2. Regular- or short-acting insulin takes about 30 minutes to work fully and lasts for 3 to 6 hours.
  3. Intermediate-acting insulin takes 2 to 4 hours to work fully. Its effects can last for up to 18 hours.
  4. Long-acting insulin takes 6 to 10 hours to reach peak levels in the bloodstream. It can work for an entire day.

Your doctor can tell you which type will work best with your diabetes type and blood sugar level.

How should I give myself insulin?

You can inject or inhale it.

To inject insulin, you can use a syringe, pen, or pump. There is also a needle-free option called a jet injector. Pens are easiest to use, pumps deliver insulin continuously, and syringes are the least expensive.

Find out how many times a day you'll need to inject, and how much insulin to inject in each dose. If you use an insulin pump, ask your doctor when you'll need to give yourself an extra injection (bolus).

If you have type 1 diabetes, you may need up to three or four injections daily. People with type 2 diabetes may need just one shot of insulin a day, possibly increasing to three or four injections.

There is also a rapid-acting inhaled insulin that you can use before meals only. If you have type 1 diabetes, you must also use long-acting insulin.

Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of each method. The decision may come down to cost, so find out which method your insurance will cover. If you don't have insurance or your plan won't pay for the type of insulin delivery method you prefer, ask your doctor about programs that can help you cover the cost.

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