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Published On: Fri, Jul 28th, 2017

Everything You Need To Know About Insulin

There is a good chance that you’ve heard about insulin at some point or another. This is a very common term that is commonly linked to diabetes. Since diabetes has become an international epidemic, the term insulin has been used more and more frequently. Many people mistakenly believe that insulin is only a medication. While it is definitely a medication, it is also naturally produced inside of the body. In fact, insulin plays a vital role. Within this comprehensive guide, you will learn everything there is to know about insulin.

photo/ Martin Büdenbender

What Does Insulin Do Inside The Body?

As mentioned above, insulin is found within the human body. It is produced naturally inside the body and is used for a wide variety of purposes. For instance, it is responsible for regulating your metabolism of carbs, protein and fat. The hormone, which is naturally produced by the pancreas, gives other cells the ability to convert glucose into energy. If you suffer from an insulin deficiency, your cells will be depleted of energy and they’ll be forced to find an alternative source. In return, this could lead to major health complications. With this in mind, it is pertinent to keep your insulin levels in balance.

What Is Insulin?

Insulin, a peptide hormone, is produced in the human body. The beta cells of the pancreatic islets are responsible for making insulin, which regulates the metabolism of fats, protein and carbohydrates. The pancreas utilizes glucose from the carbohydrates you consume for energy and to store the excess glucose for future use. Insulin is extremely important, because it helps to maintain blood glucose at optimum levels. If the blood glucose levels increase to a high level or drop to a very low level, it could pose life-threatening dangers.

As you consume food, your glucose level will increase. The speed of the increase will depend on the type of foods you consume. For instance, if you consume an ice cream, your blood sugar will increase much faster than compared to if you consumed an apple. As long as you have enough insulin stored in your body, you will be able to consume a sweet treat without experiencing a hyperglycemic episode.

There Are Different Types Of Insulin

When it comes to talking about insulin most people get confused, and this is understandable because insulin can be a complicated topic. First off, insulin is produced the pancreas, and it is designed to help control your blood sugar levels. However, when problems develop and your body can’t produce enough insulin, you have to result to taking insulin shots, or injections. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that in today’s world with all the medical technology there are a wide variety of insulin medications available. Engineers can make the slightest molecular changes, and this will greatly change the way that the insulin reacts in the body.

With that being said, the most important thing that you need to know is that different types of insulin medications work differently. Some may take longer to kick in to action, while other will have longer last effects. This is due to the fact that the medications are designed for people of different age groups, and health care needs. This is why it is completely imperative to understand the type of insulin that you are taking and what your needs are before administering. Of course, most of this will be discussed with you doctor, but it never hurt to know as much as you possibly can.

Understanding Fast-Acting Insulin

Fast-acting insulin is a form of insulin that is taken to control your blood sugar levels during meals and snacks. It starts working extremely fast, as it has an onset time of 5 to 15 minutes. Within just 30 minutes the insulin medication will reach the bloodstream and start working at peak levels. In addition to this, fast-acting insulin has the capability to last for 3 to 5 hours.

How Intermediate-Acting Insulin Works 

Intermediate-acting insulin is almost the opposite of fast-acting insulin, as it is absorbed into the bloodstream slower, but the effects last much longer. Due to its properties, this insulin is usually taken to control blood sugar levels overnight. It takes 1 ½ to 4 hours, before the insulin reaches the bloodstream and starts work at peak performance within 4 to 12 hours. However, the effects can last up to 24 hours.

Exploring Long-Acting Insulin

Long-acting insulin is almost the same as intermediate-acting insulin, as it is absorbed slowly. However, there difference comes with the peak levels, as it only has a minimal peak effect, but can last throughout an entire day. In addition to this, it can take anywhere from 0.8 hours to 4 hours to reach the bloodstream. In most cases this insulin will be combined with fast-acting insulin. It is usually injected when the effects of the fast-acting insulin wear off.

Insulin Has To Be Properly Cared For

If you are diagnosed with diabetes and are required to take insulin on a daily, this liquid medicine has now become your lifetime. While it is true that insulin will take care of your medical needs, you have to learn to take care of your insulin, as well. You have probably noticed that most manufacturers will recommend keeping insulin in the refrigerator, even if it is unopened. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, but sometimes injection cold insulin can be painful. To avoid the pain, it is best to store the insulin at room temperature, which can give it a lifespan of 1 month.

However, if you do store the insulin in the refrigerator, you want to make sure that it never gets cold enough to freeze. In addition to this, once insulin is opened it should never be kept for more than 28 days, and of course, you never want to use it if it is past the expiration date. 

Side Effects

Insulin injections are utilized to maintain optimum blood glucose levels. When your body does not produce insulin or enough insulin, there will be no way to control the sugar in your blood. Oral medications are sometimes not enough to control the glucose levels, which will call for insulin injections.

Before you start administering insulin, it is crucial to become educated on the dangers it poses. If you do not follow the advice of your primary care physician and fail to monitor your blood glucose levels, you will put your health at risk. Never administer insulin without first checking your glucose level.

The most common side effects linked to insulin injections include:

 

  • Swelling, itching and redness at the injection site
  • Skin alterations
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation

 

More serious side effects include:

 

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Blurred vision
  • Edematous hands, arms, ankles and feet

 

Hypoglycemia

One of the most serious and common complication associated with insulin is hypoglycemia, when the blood glucose levels drop below normal. This condition can pose life-threatening dangers that could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. When the body is unable to get the sugar needed to survive, it will begin to break down muscle and fat for energy. When this occurs, the body will begin to produce fatty acids or ketones, which will enter the blood stream and cause a chemical imbalance, known as diabetic ketoacidosis.

Drugs That Can Impact Insulin

Certain medications can make it very difficult for you to determine whether or not you’re suffering from low or high blood sugar levels. These drugs tend to have an impact on the insulin levels in your body and therefore, they may cause you to acquire a false reading. Clonidine, reserpine and albuterol are a few of the medications that can have an effect on your insulin levels. There is an abundance of other medications that may also increase or decrease the effectiveness of your insulin and alter its ability to lower your blood sugar levels.

Vitamins, herbs, and even over-the-counter medications may do the same. With this in mind, you should consult with your primary physician. He or she will tell you how to administer the insulin safely. They’ll provide you with proper instructions for utilizing the insulin from CanadianInsulin safely and effectively. To limit the risks, it is pertinent to follow their advice strictly. Remember that it is possible to overdose on insulin. This can lead to life-threatening hypoglycemia.

Author: Ben Mart

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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