Types of Insulin
Different types of man-made insulin are available for people with type 1 diabetes. But these insulins are not all the same.
The first generation of man-made insulin, created in the 1980s, was called "human insulin.” This man-made insulin was genetically identical to the body’s naturally produced insulin. Before that, insulin from animals had been used since the 1920s! By 2000, man-made insulin had replaced these.
By the late 1990s, man-made insulin analogs were being developed. Insulin analogs are similar to regular human insulin, but they are changed slightly to allow them to act more quickly or slowly than regular human insulin. This allows them to more closely match the body’s insulin release patterns.
Each type of insulin works differently to help closely match the body’s release of insulin. Each one has a specific time when it starts to work (called onset of action), time it takes to reach its greatest effect on blood sugar (called time to peak action), and time within which it is actively working in the body (called duration of action).
Different types of insulin analogs are available:
Long-acting. This type works more slowly. It works longer to control blood sugar between meals and when you sleep. Long-acting insulin is taken either once or twice a day at the same time every day, giving you coverage throughout the day and night.
Fast-acting (or rapid-acting). This type is taken shortly before meals to control the rapid rise in blood sugar from eating. Fast-acting insulin more closely mimics the body’s release of insulin at meals compared with long-acting insulin. It works quickly to control the rise in blood sugar after meals.
Premix. This type of insulin combines the action of a fast-acting and a long-acting insulin in 1 injection, usually taken twice a day.
Each type of insulin is used to control blood sugar in people with diabetes. But no one type is right for everyone. Each person's insulin need is different. And each person's insulin need may change over time.
According to recommendations from the American Diabetes Association, most people with type 1 diabetes should use insulin analogs to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). However, all types of insulin, including analogs, have the risk of low blood sugar. For more information on low blood sugar, click here.
Your doctor and diabetes care team will prescribe the insulin that is best for you.