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Insulin: what type and what else?

What type of insulin will I need?

Insulin lowers the level of glucose in your blood. When insulin works most strongly to lower the blood glucose level, it is said to have reached its ‘peak’. After this, its effect gradually wears off. There are five types (or classes) of insulin. Each type differs in how quickly it reaches its peak and how long it works in the body.

For example, a ‘long-acting’ insulin (also known as basal insulin) provides a constant slow release of insulin for up to 24 hours. Meanwhile, ‘fast-acting’ insulins (also known as bolus insulin) peak between one and two hours after being injected. Basal insulins are injected once or twice a day, while bolus insulins are injected with meals. You may be prescribed more than one type of insulin or a ‘mixed insulin’ (mixture of long-acting and fast-acting insulin). This is given before meals once or twice a day. The fast-acting part of the insulin helps to stop blood glucose levels from rising too much after a meal. The long-acting part works for the rest of the day.

Your insulin needs can also change over time. You may need to change your insulin dose or type or use more than one type of insulin. It is important to have regular reviews of your diabetes management with your health care team.

Learn more about the different types of insulin in the NDSS fact sheet.

Insulin fact sheet

Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose to move from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Different people need different types of insulin. Your treatment needs to be tailored to your needs.

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What else will I have to do?

People who take insulin need to self-monitor their blood glucose levels. This is usually done by pricking your finger to obtain a small drop of blood, which is then checked with a blood glucose meter. Regular monitoring can help you see the effects of food, drink, physical activity, medications and illness on your blood glucose levels.

It can also help you identify any patterns or changes in your blood glucose levels. Your health care team will help you decide your target range and when and how often you check your blood glucose levels. Read more in the NDSS fact sheet.

Blood glucose monitoring fact sheet

Checking your blood glucose levels can help you manage your diabetes. You will be able to see what makes your numbers go ‘up’ or ‘down’.

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“I was keen to know how insulin was going to impact me. I was checking my blood glucose several times a day to monitor it, quite excited about how I was bringing it down very quickly.”
Kevin, 57 years old

Next: Benefits and side-effects of insulin

Diabetes Australia acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this Country. We recognise their connection to land, waters, winds and culture. We pay the upmost respect to them, their cultures and to their Elders, past and present. We are committed to improving health outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by diabetes and those at risk.

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