Personal solutions for everyday life.
Different types of insulin are
available for people with diabetes.
If you need insulin, you and your
diabetes team will look at the
options and decide which type
fits best with your lifestyle and
blood glucose (sugar) patterns.
Types of insulin
When you talk to your diabetes team about insulin, they will explain that there are two
aspects of blood glucose control. When you have a meal, your blood glucose goes up, so
you need insulin to help your body cope with this. But there is also a background level
of blood glucose that needs to be controlled between meals. The main types of insulin
are described in the box below. They have been designed to control one or both the
meal-time and background blood glucose levels. You may have to take a combination of
insulins to give you good 24-hour control. Keep a note of the insulin you’re prescribed
and your target blood glucose levels, in the spaces provided.
Your blood glucose levels
Your fasting blood glucose should be:
1-2 hours after food, your blood glucose should be:
Main types of insulin
• Rapid-acting insulins can be injected up to 15 minutes before you eat, during your
meal, or up to 15 minutes after your meal
• Short-acting insulins are usually taken 15-30 minutes before a meal
• Medium and long-acting insulins have an effect that lasts for several hours and keep
blood glucose under control between meals
• Insulin mixtures can contain either a short or rapid acting insulin. Mixtures
containing short and longer-acting insulins are usually taken 15-30 minutes before a
meal so that the short-acting insulin can control the rise in glucose after a meal and
the longer-acting insulin can carry on working between meals. Mixtures containing
rapid and longer-acting insulins are usually taken 15 minutes before you eat, during
your meal, or up to 15 minutes after your meal.
Keep your spare insulin in a refrigerator, but don’t let it freeze.
Insulin that is in use should be kept at room temperature.
Your insulin is: Brand Name (1):
Brand Name (2):
You need to take it: (1):
Never stop taking your insulin without discussing it with your diabetes team
Taking your insulin
At the moment, insulin needs to be injected. It is not available in tablet form
because the stomach would digest it before it got into the bloodstream and started
Depending on the type of insulin you need and your preference, your insulin may
be available in:
• a prefilled pen device (with a needle) that is filled with insulin and discarded
• a reusable pen device (with needles) that takes replaceable cartridges when empty
• a syringe with a needle that you fill with insulin from a vial (or bottle)
• an injection device that doesn’t use needles
Insulin pens are very convenient and popular because they are more discreet and
portable than syringes and vials. Needle-free injection devices are suited to people
who have a needle phobia.
Some people have a continuous supply of insulin delivered into their body from an
For the best insulin absorption, you should inject into the fatty tissue just under the
skin in the areas shown in the illustration.
It’s important to use different sites in a rotation system to prevent what’s known
as lipohypertrophy. This is where an area bulges because fat has accumulated. It
happens if you overuse an injection site. If you carry on injecting into an area of
lipohypertrophy, the insulin isn’t absorbed very efficiently and your glucose control
will be affected.
Your diabetes team will teach
you more about rotating your
injections, how to use your insulin
delivery device and what to do
with the needles after using
them. Also, ask them to check
your injection sites for signs of
lipohypertrophy at your annual
Sometimes an injection site
becomes bruised or bleeds - this
happens to everyone occasionally.
Your insulin dose will change throughout your life, depending on what you eat, how
you exercise, illness, climate, work, social activity, and your circumstances. Your
diabetes team will advise you how to prepare for these changes by adjusting your meals
or your insulin.
Sometimes your blood glucose will go high or low for no reason. If this happens, don’t
adjust your insulin. But if you’re having trouble keeping your glucose levels near to
your target, talk to your diabetes team. They will advise you how to make changes to
improve your glucose control.
If you forget to take your insulin
Your diabetes team will agree a plan with you, detailing what you should do if you
forget to take your insulin. However, if you are unsure, speak to your team.
Your diabetes team
A diabetes team is a group of healthcare professionals with specialist knowledge
and experience of supporting people with diabetes. For example, teams may
include diabetologist / endocrinologists (hospital specialists who deal with hormone
disorders such as diabetes), family doctors, specialist diabetes nurses, dieticians,
ophthalmologists (for specialist eye care) and podiatrists (for foot care).
Other leaflets in this series include
specific explanations of some of the
terms used here. Leaflets on blood
testing, hypos, travel, impact on sexual
health, driving and employment, illness,
and complications may be particularly
helpful for you. Ask your diabetes team
for the ones you want.
Further information is available from
Contact numbers and notes
Lilly UK Answers
Hampshire RG24 9NL
Tel: (01256) 315000
Provided as a service for patient care
UKDBT01184 June 2012