What People With Diabetes Need to Know About Insulin


Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates how much glucose is in your blood. It helps control blood glucose (sugar) levels by telling your liver, muscle and fat cells to take in glucose from your blood, helping the glucose to be used for energy. A lack of insulin or resistance to it can cause a form of diabetes.

How does diabetes affect how your insulin works?

If you have diabetes, you are either not producing enough insulin, or it is not functioning the way it should. When you eat, your blood glucose levels rise. Your pancreas releases insulin that allows your body to store this sugar to use later. In a person with diabetes this process doesn’t work properly. It can result in your blood sugar levels rising either too high, resulting to hyperglycaemia or dropping too low, resulting to hypoglycaemia.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a medical condition where your blood glucose level is too high because your body can no longer produce insulin.

People with Type 1 diabetes normally rely on insulin treatments to control their blood glucose levels, and they can take it through either a pump or an injection. People with Type 1 diabetes are usually diagnosed earlier in life and it is not known to be linked to age, weight or lifestyle factors.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the insulin your body makes does not work properly, or it cannot make enough. It is usually diagnosed later in life. Many people with Type 2 diabetes are able to carry on without insulin injections, but may need to make a few lifestyle changes such as:

  • Increasing exercise
  • Losing weight
  • Changing their eating habits

However, if lifestyle changes do not have a great enough impact then people with Type 2 diabetes may progress from oral medication to injectables and/or taking it through injections or pumps.

Types of insulin

There are 3 common types of insulin someone could be prescribed which are listed below:

  1. Rapid-acting/short-acting is usually taken before your regular meals to protect your glucose levels from rising while eating.
  2. Intermediate-acting is also known as background or basal insulin. This means it works throughout the day. It is often combined with rapid-acting or short-acting insulin.
  3. Long-acting is slower than intermediate insulin, but very similar in how your body processes it. It is often combined with rapid-acting or short-acting insulin.

The type you are prescribed will depend on your body’s needs.

Insulin administration and injection sites

injection site

You will be advised the best times to take your insulin by your healthcare professional. It’s important to adhere to these instructions to control your blood glucose levels.

Insulin doesn’t come in pill form because your digestive system would break it down before it had a chance to start working. Many people with diabetes will self-administer by injecting with a pre-filled pen. If you inject regularly you will need to vary the areas of your skin where you inject to ensure it is being absorbed consistently.

The ideal areas to inject are the parts of your body with a larger layer of fat, such as:

  • Abdomen
  • Thighs
  • Buttocks

If you inject in the same place too often, your skin may start to become stiffer, this can often lead to it becoming lumpy. It can help to imagine a grid drawn onto your body so you can pick a different square to inject into each time. After some time, you’d need to start again at the first square you chose, but that should have fully healed by the time you’ve gone back to that area.

Some areas of your body will absorb insulin quicker than others so it’s important to keep track of this. Speak to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your injection sites and they will be able to advise you.

Storage advice

It’s important to store your insulin properly to make sure it is effective:

  1. Insulin should be stored in the fridge and away from heat. If you go out it will be useable at room temperature for  short periods of time, but if you’re travelling it’s best to keep it in a cool bag.
  2. Keep it out of sunlight.
  3. Check the expiry date and don’t use it if it’s out of date.

How can Spirit Pharmacy help you?

Spirit Pharmacy specialises in helping people with diabetes. We can dispense your insulin prescriptions (along with your other medicines) and deliver it free of charge directly to your house in insulated environmentally friendly packaging to keep it cool. We also offer free diabetes education to all our customers and our pharmacists can help with any queries you may have.

Find out more about Spirit Pharmacy.

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