What is insulin therapy for type 1 diabetes?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

The hormone insulin allows cells to absorb the sugar glucose from the bloodstream and use it for fuel. It is produced by the pancreas and is necessary for life. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin and must inject or inhale insulin on a regular schedule or use an insulin pump.

Normally, the pancreas provides a constant supply of insulin, as well as extra insulin after meals. Most insulin dosage schedules are designed to achieve the same effect. They combine a long-acting insulin with shorter-acting insulin taken at mealtime. Each mealtime insulin dose can be adjusted, depending on how much carbohydrate you will eat, your pre-meal blood glucose level, and your expected activity.

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For people with type 1 diabetes, replacement insulin acts just like insulin made in the body, and allows glucose into the cells. People can get replacement insulin via an injection from an insulin pen. On one end of the pen is a very small, thin needle, which goes just under the skin. It might hurt a tiny bit for a really short amount of time. A second option is an insulin pump. This is a device that has a cannula, which is a small, thin tube that sits just under the skin. A little bit of insulin will go into the body all the time, and people can just press a button if extra insulin is needed.

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