Just Add Insulin

There are several types of diabetes, but what they all have in common is that they involve problems with your blood sugar levels. Clearly, the body doesn’t want to have excessive levels of glucose in its blood, so normally it takes steps to regulate it on its own. The hormone in charge of this process is called insulin.

Insulin is made in the pancreas, an organ just behind the stomach that forms part of the digestive system and plays a role in the hormonal system (properly called the endocrine system). If your pancreas fails to make insulin or your insulin isn’t working properly, that’s when you develop diabetes and need some extra help regulating blood sugar.

That’s why one of the primary ways to manage diabetes is to replace missing insulin. This is the main treatment for type 1, but some type 2 diabetics may use it as well. Traditionally, insulin is supplied through injection, but insulin pumps have become more popular in recent years.

Injections often use a special type of pen with replaceable or non-replaceable cartridges as well as replaceable needles. They are quicker and easier to use day-to-day than a traditional syringe. Smart insulin pens are a new development that can help track your insulin use. Vials or cartridges of insulin need to be kept cool, so when they’re not needed, they should be stored in the fridge.

An insulin pump is a small device attached to your body that can deliver insulin throughout the day. This can be more convenient than having to constantly stop and remember to inject, but pumps can be more expensive than pens. The tube that attaches the pump is called a cannula and needs to be changed every few days. Pumps allow greater flexibility, but you will need to learn how they work.

When given as a medicine, insulin is available in several different types. There are rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, long-acting and combinations that mix short- and long-acting. You can probably get a pretty big clue from the names what the difference is between them. As they act at different speeds, you use them at different times, generally in relation to when you eat.

Diabetes can be a complicated condition to manage, but getting to understand how insulin works is essential. It’s how you take control of your own health.

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