July 17, 2024

What is insulin?


Last Update on September 21, 2022

| Overview | What is insulin? | Functions of Insulin | Types | Characteristics | Dose | Methods to use insulin |

1. Overview:

A hormone called insulin is in controls the blood sugar level in the bloodstream. The pancreas produces insulin. It supports blood glucose for entering cells, where it converts into energy that is used to function properly. If the pancreas produces insulin, the blood sugar level increases. Diabetes is largely caused by an inability to produce insulin that works.

Hormones are chemical messengers that tell specific cells or tissues to behave in a certain way to support a specific function in the body.

The body gets its insulin primarily from the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. The hormone is produced by groups of cells in the pancreas known as beta cells, and the amount produced is dependent on blood glucose levels in the body.

2. What is insulin?

Insulin is initially produced in the beta cells as a large molecule known as “proinsulin.” Insulin and C-peptide are the two components that makeup proinsulin. Because it may be used to monitor how much insulin a person is producing, C-peptide is crucial, particularly when deciding on a course of treatment. A person produces more insulin the more C-peptide they have in their system. This can aid a doctor in deciding how much insulin to recommend.

The pancreas stops producing insulin in persons with type 1 diabetes. Since their beta cells were damaged, they require insulin injections in order to utilize the glucose from their meals.

Diabetes type 2 patients produce insulin, but their bodies don’t react well to it. Some type 2 diabetics require insulin injections or diabetes medications to enable their bodies to absorb glucose for energy.

In order to balance blood sugar levels, more insulin is produced when glucose levels rise.

Furthermore, insulin supports the metabolism of proteins or fats for energy.

Insulin regulates many body functions, including blood sugar; in order to maintain balance in function in the body. If insulin levels are too low or high, typical symptoms with high or low blood sugar may begin to appear. If blood sugar levels remain low or high, major health issues could start to emerge.

What insulin is available in tablets/pills? No, because it would be broken down during digestion, just like the protein in food, insulin cannot be given orally. To enter your bloodstream, it must be injected into the fat beneath your skin. Insulin injection spots may occasionally experience an allergic reaction in unusual circumstances. If you think you could be having a response, consult your doctor.

3. Functions of Insulin:

The body uses insulin to control the energy (glucose) that gets. It transports glucose, which is needed as fuel by the body’s cells, from the blood into the cells. The remainder is kept in the liver, muscles, and fat cells after the body have used what is required.

4. Types of insulin:

  • Rapid-acting insulin
  • Regular or short-acting insulin
  • Intermediate-acting insulin
  • Long-acting insulin
  • Ultra long-acting
  • Inhaled insulin 

4.1. Rapid-acting insulin:

Fast-acting insulin commonly referred to as rapid-acting insulin starts operating immediately after injection and ends working two to four hours later. Before a meal, rapid-acting insulin is injected to lower high blood sugars and stops your blood glucose from rising. Along with longer-acting insulin, it is usable. Names of Rapid-acting insulin are:

  • Novolog
  • Humalog
  • Apidra

4.2. Regular or short-acting insulin:

Short-acting insulin is another name for regular insulin. It can be injected a little bit later than rapid-acting insulin, but it can still be utilized to meet your mealtime insulin demands. Additionally, it has a somewhat longer effect on the body than fast-acting insulin. Along with longer-acting insulin, it can be utilized.

  • Novolin R (Regular insulin)

4.3. Intermediate-acting insulin:

Although intermediate-acting insulin is less frequently used than other types of insulin, it’s still potential that your doctor will advise you to use it. This kind of insulin can be helpful for overnight insulin coverage because it lasts for about half the day.

  • Novolin N (NPH)

4.4. Long-acting insulin:

All-day insulin requirements are fulfilled by long-acting insulin. The concept is that you only need to take it once, and it will support maintaining blood sugar control for a full 24 hours. To maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day, inject long-acting insulin first thing in the morning or right before bed. Depending on the type of diabetes you have and the prescription your doctor issues, you may or may not also use a rapid-acting or regular insulin. Names of Long-acting insulin are:

  • Levemir
  • Lantus
  • Basaglar

4.5. Ultra long-acting:

The lack of a peak in ultra-long-acting insulin is the large difference between long-acting and regular insulin. This ensures that the complete effect of insulin on your body, which lowers your chance of having low blood glucose, never occurs. Ultra long-acting insulin is:

  • Tresiba
  • Toujeo

4.6. Inhaled insulin:

Rapid-acting inhaled insulin begins to function 12 to 15 minutes after being breathed. It reaches its climax within 30 minutes of inhalation and leaves your body in 3 hours. Long-acting insulin must be used with this type of insulin; it cannot be used in place of it.

  • Afrezza

5. Characteristics of insulin:

There are 3 characteristics of insulin:

  1. Onset: The onset is the period of time between when insulin is released into the body and when blood sugar levels start to fall.
  2. Peak time: The period known as peak time is when insulin is most effective at lowering blood sugar.
  3. Duration: Duration is the amount of time that insulin keeps lowering blood sugar.

6. Insulin Dose:

All insulin is delivered via liquid suspension or dissolution. U-100 insulin, which provides 100 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid, is the current standard and most widely used dose in the United States, while U-500 insulin is also available for people who are very insulin resistant.

Although U-40, which contains 40 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid, has mainly been phased out worldwide, it is still feasible to find it in some locations.

Make sure to use the appropriate size syringe for your insulin strength when traveling outside of the United States.

7. Methods to use insulin:

Insulin is not available in the form of tablets or capsules, because it would be broken down by the digestive system before it could do any good, however, there are various methods/options available for insulin delivery. Whichever best suits your lifestyle and treatment requirements can be determined with the assistance of your doctor.

Methods are:

  • Syringe or pens: You can inject insulin into the fat beneath your skin by using a syringe and needle or an insulin pen-like device with an attached needle. Your blood sugar levels, frequency of eating, and type of diabetes will all influence how frequently. Every day, it might happen several times.
  • Insulin pump: Rapid-acting insulin is injected into a tiny tube located beneath your skin by an insulin pump in small and regular dosages. Throughout the day, these doses are given repeatedly. There are multiple types of insulin pumps available on the market.

Even though insulin therapy lowers blood sugar levels well, it can still be demanding. Ask your doctor whether any changes must be made if you notice any problems with your insulin schedule, such as difficulty avoiding very low or very high blood sugar levels. You may prevent diabetes problems and live an active, healthy life by selecting an insulin regimen that suits your needs and lifestyle.