About the Different Types of Insulin

About the Different Types of Insulin

There are over 15 million Americans diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and possibly millions more who are not yet diagnosed. And for those who have been diagnosed, for some their pancreas can still produce the hormone known as insulin but due to aging or even obesity, the less insulin is produced. So, type-2 diabetics will need to rely on injections of manufactured insulin to control their blood sugar (or blood glucose level) or taking diabetic related pills. But in order to achieve control over one’s blood sugar, it is important to know the various types of insulin available.

Insulin is categorized by how fast it works, when it reaches its peak and takes action and for how long the hormone will stay in the body.

Rapid-Acting Insulin

Rapid-acting insulin goes by the name of Lispro or Humalog. It is the fastest working insulin available and once it is injected into the body, it works within 15 minutes. It hits its peak at around an hour after injection and lasts about 4-5 hours in the body. There is also Novolog or Aspart and Apidra and Glulisine with different onset times.

Rapid-acting Insulin is a “clear” type of insulin that is designed to be taken before meals and works by the time the person begins eating. This is essential to the body because the meal is digested and glucose is moved into the bloodstream.

Short-acting Insulin

Short-acting insulin is often called “regular” insulin and also taken at around mealtime. It takes longer to work and is typically taken around 30-minutes to an hour before a meal. It peaks around 3-5 hours but lasts about 6 hours in the body. It is also a “clear” type of insulin that goes by the names of Regular humulin or novolin. Also, there is Velosulin.

a needle for injecting insulin
A needle for injecting insulin into the body

Intermediate-Acting Insulin

Intermediate-acting insulin goes by the name of NPH or Lente is insulin that is mixed with a substance to allow for slow absorption in the body. Unlike the rapid-acting or short-acting insulin which are clear, intermediate is cloudy when mixed. It also takes longer to work but stays in the body for a longer amount of time. NPH works about anywhere between 2-4 hours after injection. Peaks about 10 hours after injection and stays in the body between 10-16 hours. Lente peaks anywhere between 4-12 hours but stays in the body for 18 hours. So, if taken in the morning, it will work all day.

And for children, a shot of this type of insulin in the evening will keep insulin production for a child during the night.

Long-acting insulin

This type of insulin is known as Utralente and works anywhere between 30-minutes to 3 hours after injection and can stay in the body up to 20 hours or more. These are taken before bed or in the morning. Also, available is Lantus, Levemir or Detemir.

There is another very long-acting insulin known as Glargine and it lowers blood sugar level after one hour of injection but has been known to work effectively for 24 hours. Refer to blood sugar levels chart for more information on blood sugar.

Which Type of Insulin Should I Use?

Of course, the type of insulin you need is what your physician will recommend. There will probably be tests to see how fast insulin is absorbed into the body but also judging by your lifestyle from how much you eat or drink, especially if you drink alcohol and also if you are on a diet plan. Also, age is a consideration.

Other factors depend if you are willing to take multiple injections per day and your ability to check on your blood sugar.

Ask coach G carbohydrates exercise

A set of exercises to lower blood sugar levels

Here’s a list of exercises that will lower your blood sugar levels. In fact, any physical activity will lower your blood sugar level. Why? It is because physical activity will burn your sugar that is present in your bloodstream at the moment and thus reduce it’s amount. In such case there is no need for your organism to use insulin to regulate blood sugar because most of the blood sugar is burnt during activity.

Too much exercise can be harmful!

When sugar drops below a certain level problems might arise. Be careful!

In the meantime you can read more about diabetic socks for men and women as well as diabetic shoes for men and women.

Diabetes alcohol

Diabetes and alcohol

A very bad decision in combination with some medicine. Read more in this article.

There is over a million American suffering from diabetes. The most common form of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, a hetereogenous disorder which includes the body’s resistance to insulin, a defect in the body’s inability to secret insulin and an increase in the production of glucose in the liver.

Typical treatment of type 2 diabetes is being on a diabetic diet plan which includes weight loss, exercising and monitoring what foods are eaten. But sometimes medications are needed to bring blood glucose levels down.

Types of Medication Available

Medications that are sold are classified in five major categories: sulfonylureas, meglitinides, biguanides, thiazolidinediones and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. Also, within the last few years, newer medications approved by the FDA have been introduced.


Metformin (which is known by its brand name Glucophage) is a biguanide. Biguanides work differently from the previous two as it lowers blood glucose levels by decreasing the amount of glucose produced by the liver and also makes the tissue in the muscle more sensitive to insulin to allow for glucose to be absorbed. Biguanides can be take two times a day. Side-effects can include diarrhea when not taken with food and also in rare cases, lactic acidosis.


This medication stimulates the beta cells for insulin production. Repaglinide (also known by its brand name Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix) are meglitinides and are taken before each three meals. Because it stimulates the release of insulin, there is a chance of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels).


This pill stimulates the beta cells in the pancreas to release more insulin. This is an older type of medication that has been used since the 1950’s and Chlorpropamide (which is also known as Diabinese) is the only first generation form of Sulfonylureas still in use today. Second generation drugs such as glipizide (also known as Glucotrol and Glucotrol XL), glyburide (Micronase, Glynase and Diabeta) and glimepiride (Amaryl) are taken one or two times before meals.

Each of these Sulfonylureas medications have similar effects on blood glucose levels but they differ in side effects and how often they are taken. Alcohol taken with some sulfonylureas medications are known to cause vomiting, flushing or some type of sickness. Also known to stop working after usage after a few years.


This medication helps insulin work better in the muscle and fat and reduce glucose production in the liver. Medication used can include Rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (ACTOS). Before, people used to take troglitazone (Rezuline) but was recently taken off the market after a small number of people had serious liver problems. Also, the FDA issued a safety alert in May 2007 that taking the medication Avandia may lead to a possibility of heart attacks or fatal cardiovascular events.

Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitors

This medication is known to help lower the blood glucose levels delaying the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose during digestion, thus allowing blood glucose levels from peaking. Medication used is Acarbose (Precose) or Meglitol (Glyset). Side effects can include gas or diarrhea.

Newer Medications for Type-2 Diabetics

There are new medications available such as DPP-4 Inhibitors which block the enzyme DPP-4 and deactivates a protein GLP-1 which allows insulin to circulate in the blood and helps lower blood glucose levels. Another medication is Incretin Mimetics such as exenatide (Byetta) which helps the body make more insulin and Antihyperglycemic Synthetic Analogs such as pramlintide acetate (Symlin) which is used with insulin for tighter blood glucose control.

It is important for any diabetic to research the positives and negative side effects of these medications. With advances in technology, new medications are being introduced to treat type-2 diabetes. Contact your physician if you have any questions.