Rapid-acting insulin among therapies to help control diabetes


More than 10% of Americans are living with diabetes. This means they can’t effectively process sugar in the bloodstream because their bodies don’t produce enough insulin or use insulin inefficiently. Insulin is the hormone that regulates gluclose, helping the body use it for energy or store it.

Insulin for diabetes treatment

Excess blood sugar can cause health problems if left unchecked, so most people with diabetes need insulin therapy. The goal is to keep blood sugar within a target range.

Insulin can be delivered by:

  • Injection: Using a syringe and needle or a pen-like device, you can inject the insulin into the fat just under the skin.
  • Pump: An insulin pump is a device that delivers a steady supply of insulin through a tube inserted under the skin.
  • Inhalation: Inhaled insulin is rapid-acting and inhaled just before eating a meal.

When considering insulin therapy, these three characteristics matter:

  • Onset: how quickly the insulin begins to lower sugar in the bloodstream
  • Peak: how long it takes for the insulin to be at maximum strength
  • Duration: how long the insulin stays in the bloodstream

4 types of insulin medications

Before prescribing insulin therapy, your doctor will consider:

  • What type of diabetes you have:
    • Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas creates little to no insulin.
    • Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult onset diabetes, exists when the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin properly.
    • Gestational diabetes occurs when your body has high blood sugar during pregnancy.
  • Your glucose levels and how they fluctuate
  • Lifestyle characteristics such as activity level and diet

Your doctor will often combine different types of insulin for the best results. Insulin therapy comes in these forms:

Rapid-acting insulin

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new type of rapid-acting insulin. Rapid-acting insulins imitate the body’s secretion of insulin after a meal, preventing blood sugar spikes that can happen after eating. Rapid-acting insulins have been approved for use in children and adults and are generally used in combination with longer-acting insulin.

  • Onset: 15 minutes
  • Peak: 1 to 2 hours
  • Duration: 2 to 4 hours

Short-acting, or regular, insulin

Regular insulin covers your mealtime needs and lasts longer than rapid-acting insulin.

  • Onset: 30 minutes
  • Peak: 2 to 3 hours
  • Duration: 3 to 6 hours

Intermediate-acting insulin

Intermediate-acting insulin is a lesser-used insulin option that may be useful for overnight coverage.

  • Onset: 1 to 2 hours
  • Peak: 4 to 12 hours
  • Duration: 12 to 18 hours

Long- and ultralong-acting insulin

Longer-acting insulin therapies provide all-day insulin coverage. Some people need to pair it with a rapid-acting or short-acting insulin.

  • Onset: 2 to 6 hours
  • Peak: No peak
  • Duration: 24 to 40 hours

Innovations in insulin therapies improve quality of life

Though there is no cure for diabetes, since insulin was discovered in 1921, developments in insulin therapy have continued to improve the quality of life for people living with the condition.

For more information about insulin therapies contact your primary care provider, who will consider your individual needs and lifestyle when determining which insulin is best for you.

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