When should a person with diabetes take insulin?

Your plan for taking insulin will depend on your daily routine and your type of insulin. Some people with diabetes who use insulin need to take it two, three, or four times a day to reach their blood glucose targets. Others can take a single shot. Your doctor or diabetes educator will help you learn how and when to give yourself insulin.

Types of insulin: Each type of insulin works at a different speed. For example, rapid-acting insulin starts to work right after you take it. Long-acting insulin works for many hours. Most people need two or more types of insulin to reach their blood glucose targets.

Diabetes pills: Along with meal planning and physical activity, diabetes pills help people with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes keep their blood glucose levels on target. Several kinds of pills are available. Each works in a different way. Many people take two or three kinds of pills. Some people take combination pills, which contain two kinds of diabetes medicine in one tablet. Some people take pills and insulin.

Your doctor may ask you to try one kind of pill. If it doesn't help you reach your blood glucose targets, your doctor may ask you to:

Take more of the same pill. Add another kind of pill. Change to another type of pill. Start taking insulin. Start taking another injected medicine.

If your doctor suggests that you take insulin or another injected medicine, it doesn't mean your diabetes is getting worse. Instead, it means you need insulin or another type of medicine to reach your blood glucose targets. Everyone is different. What works best for you depends on your usual daily routine, eating habits, and activities and your other health conditions.

Injections other than insulin: In addition to insulin, two other types of injected medicines are now available. Both work with insulin-either the body's own or injected-to help keep your blood glucose from going too high after you eat. Neither is a substitute for insulin.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

If you have diabetes, your doctor is the best person to tell you whether and when you need to take insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes you will need to take insulin daily for the rest of your life because your body makes little or no insulin. If you have type 2 diabetes, you may be able to manage your diabetes without insulin for a while, and possibly indefinitely. Changes in diet and exercise habits can often bring type 2 diabetes under control without medication. In other cases, people with type 2 diabetes may start producing less insulin and may need to start taking it. Consult your doctor for more information about insulin and diabetes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.