What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone produced and released by beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is released to help the body to regulate blood glucose. Insulin release is triggered by an increase in blood glucose from food consumption.
When is insulin used?
Insulin is used in the treatment of both diabetes mellitus (DM) type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer can produce insulin because the beta cells are destroyed. Therefore, all type 1 diabetes patients must receive insulin to regulate their blood glucose. In type 2 diabetes there still is some insulin being produced but the body does not respond well to it. In this case, a patient can start with medications that help increase insulin sensitivity. In later stages of diabetes if other medications are not effective a patient may start insulin to help the body regulate blood glucose.
Different types of insulin
There are several different types of insulin. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of insulin and there is no clear "go to" insulin. Each insulin is classified based on its onset, peak, and duration of action.
Side effects associated with all types of insulin include hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), weight gain, allergic reactions, hypokalemia (low potassium), and injection site reactions such as rash or pruritus (itching).
The four different types of insulin used in the treatment of diabetes are rapid-acting, short-acting, immediate-acting, and long-acting. Regardless of which type of insulin is used, patients should be monitored in the first few weeks of starting insulin and throughout treatment to ensure the dosage is appropriate. Each patient will respond to insulin differently and will need adjustments based on blood glucose readings to achieve target HbA1c goals and minimize hypoglycemic episodes.