Insulin and Type 2 Diabetes: What to Know

Beth Howard | Dec 2nd 2015 Jun 21st 2017

Reviewed by: Robert Hurd, MD

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While everyone with type 1 diabetes needs to take insulin, people with type 2 diabetes don’t necessarily require it. They’re able to manage their condition through medications or exercise and diet. Still, at least 40 percent of people with type 2 end up eventually having to take insulin. Here’s what you need to know about it.

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No need to panic

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Insulin is a powerful and effective treatment and starting insulin therapy does not mean you’re at the end of the road, or that you failed to manage your disease. There simply comes a point when no matter what we do, our bodies can no longer produce enough insulin to avoid complications.

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What’s happening in your body

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Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, one that advances as the body’s pancreas slowly becomes unable to produce insulin. With type 2, the body builds insulin resistance, so it can no longer use what little insulin is being produced.

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How insulin works

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Insulin injections mimic the body’s normal insulin response. So many people will need a combination of short-acting and long-acting insulins. When the body produces insulin properly, the pancreas releases insulin constantly, not just when you eat.

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There are lots of options

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The insulin options available today can be individualized to accommodate when you eat or your work schedule, as well as other specific aspects of your lifestyle.

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How is insulin administered?

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Insulin is administered either via injection or through a pump that dispenses it under the skin. Insulin cannot be taken by mouth because digestive enzymes break it down before it reaches the bloodstream. So, to get into the bloodstream, it needs to be injected or pumped into the body.

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What kinds of insulin are there?

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There are five different types of insulin: rapid-acting insulin, regular or short-acting insulin, intermediate-acting insulin, long-acting insulin, and ultra-long acting insulin. There is also now an inhalable form of insulin available.

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What kind is right for you?

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You may be prescribed more than one type of insulin – one that is a “background” insulin and a “mealtime” insulin. The “background” insulin would be one that is intermediate to long-acting and the “mealtime” insulin would be one that is rapid to short-acting. The types of insulin you need will depend on the type of diabetes you have, your blood sugar levels and how much those levels fluctuate throughout the day.

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The future of insulin is here

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Ultra-long acting insulins are now be available. You inject these every day but with a little bit more overlap, giving a person more leeway with missed doses. And, as noted previously, another new option is inhalable insulin.

NEXT: A1C Tests: Questions and Answers