Many forms of insulin treat type 1 diabetes. How fast they work and how long they last let you know what group they go in.
Your doctor may prescribe more than one type. Sometimes you might need other medicines that work with insulin. You and your doctor will choose the treatment that controls your diabetes best.
Types of Insulin
Rapid-acting insulin starts to work in minutes and lasts a couple of hours.
You take it when you eat or when your blood sugar’s too high. You usually get rapid-acting insulin into your blood with a small needle, prefilled pen, or insulin pump.
This group includes medicines like:
- Glulisine (Apidra)
- Lispro (Admelog, Humalog)
- Aspart (Fiasp, NovoLog)
There’s also a type you inhale called Afrezza. It works just like other rapid-acting insulins but leaves your body faster.
You usually take a rapid-acting insulin with a longer-acting one. This helps control your blood sugar at night and between meals.
Short-acting or regular insulin gets into your bloodstream in about 30 minutes and fully kicks in after 2 or 3 hours. It helps control blood sugar spikes during meals. Short-acting insulin lasts longer than rapid-acting insulin, so you might not need it every time you eat.
There’s no generic form of short-acting insulin. The brand names are:
- Humulin R
- Novolin R
- Velosulin R
Intermediate-acting insulin gets into your blood slowly. But it works for up to 18 hours. It keeps your blood sugar up, even during the night and between meals. Intermediate-acting insulin goes by the name NPH (Humulin N, Novolin N, and ReliOn).
Long-acting insulin lasts for up to 24 hours. Most people need just one dose a day. Long-acting insulins include
- Degludec (Tresiba)
- Detemir (Levemir)
- Glargine (Basaglar, Lantus)
Ultra-long-acting insulin takes a long time to get into your bloodstream but sticks around for 36 hours. Your doctor may try an ultra-long-acting insulin like glargine u-300 (Toujeo) if other types don’t last long enough for you.
Which Type of Insulin Is Best?
The best treatment for you depends on many things, like:
How you respond to insulin. How long it takes to absorb insulin and how long it lasts varies from person to person. Even where you inject your insulin matters.
Your lifestyle. How your body uses insulin can change depending on:
- What you eat
- Your weight
- How much you exercise
Your age. As you get older, your body may become more resistant to insulin.
How you want to manage your blood sugar. Do you want tight control, meaning you keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible? Or do you want to be a little less strict? Your answer will help your doctor decide the type and amount of insulin you need.
Other Diabetes Medicines
Sometimes your doctor may prescribe a medicine called pramlintide (Symlin). It acts like a hormone called amylin that your pancreas normally makes. When you have type 1 diabetes, your body can’t make this hormone. You take pramlintide before meals at the same time you take your insulin. This keeps your blood sugar from getting too high after you eat.
At first, you might have side effects like nausea, vomiting, and low blood sugar. Your doctor will start you on a low dose. It’ll go up over time.