- What is insulin, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What brand names are available for insulin?
- Do I need a prescription for insulin?
- What are the uses for insulin?
- What are the side effects of insulin?
- What is the dosage for insulin?
- Is insulin safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about insulin?
What is insulin, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- Insulin is a naturally-occurring hormone secreted by the pancreas. Insulin is required by the cells of the body in order for them to remove and use glucose from the blood. Cells use glucose to produce energy that they need to carry out their functions. Researchers first gave an active extract of the pancreas containing insulin to a young diabetic patient in 1922, and the FDA first approved insulin in 1939. Currently, insulin used for treatment is derived from beef and pork pancreas as well as recombinant (man-made) technology. The first recombinant human insulin was approved by the FDA in 1982.
- People with diabetes mellitus have a reduced ability to take up and use glucose from the blood, and, as a result, the glucose level in the blood rises. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. Therefore, insulin therapy is needed. In type 2 diabetes, patients produce insulin, but cells throughout the body do not respond normally to the insulin. Nevertheless, insulin also may be used in type 2 diabetes to overcome the resistance of the cells to insulin. By increasing the uptake of glucose by cells and reducing the concentration of glucose in the blood, insulin prevents or reduces the long-term complications of diabetes, including damage to the blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Insulin is administered by injection under the skin (subcutaneously). The subcutaneous tissue of the abdomen is preferred because absorption of the insulin is more consistent from this location than subcutaneous tissues in other locations.
What are the uses for insulin?
What are the side effects of insulin?
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness around the mouth
- Tingling in the fingers
- Muscle weakness
- Blurred vision
- Cold temperature
- Excessive yawning
- Loss of consciousness
Patients may experience blurred vision if they have had elevated blood sugar levels for a prolonged period of time and then have the elevated levels rapidly brought to normal. This is due to a shift of fluid within the lens of the eye. Over time, vision returns to normal. Other side effects that may occur include headaches, skin reactions (redness, swelling, itching or rash at the site of injection), worsening of diabetic retinopathy, changes in the distribution of body fat (lipodystrophy), allergic reactions, sodium retention, and general body swelling. Insulin causes weight gain and may reduce potassium blood levels. In addition to these side effects, inhaled insulin (Afrezza) may cause throat pain or irritation and cough and patients should inform their healthcare professional of any unresolved symptoms affecting the lungs for follow up.
Quick GuideType 2 Diabetes Diagnosis, Treatment, Medication
What is the dosage for insulin?
The abdomen is the preferred site for insulin injection, but the sites of injection must be rotated in order to prevent erosion of the fat beneath the skin, a condition called lipodystrophy. Dosing is adjusted for each patient. A combination of short acting/rapid acting and intermediate insulin or long acting insulin are typically used.
Is insulin safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
What else should I know about insulin?
How should I keep insulin stored?
- Unopened insulin should be stored between 2 C and 8 C (36 F and 46 F); it should not be placed in a freezer.
- Insulin vials that are being used can be kept at room temperature for up to a month.
- All vials should be protected from sunlight and excessive heat.
- Unused insulin should be thrown away after the expiration date.
- The vials should never be shaken.
Reference: FDA Prescribing Information
Quick GuideType 2 Diabetes Diagnosis, Treatment, Medication
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- FDA Mulls Lifting Tight Safety Limits on Diabetes Drug Avandia
- Women's Weight-Loss Surgery May Benefit Later Offspring
- 'Nano' Medicine Might Someday Free Diabetics From Daily Needles
- Type 2 Diabetes Progresses Faster in Kids, Study Finds
- Could Statins Raise Diabetes Risk?
- Fish Oil Pills Might Cut Diabetes Risk, Researchers Say
- Depression May Raise Low Blood Sugar Risk in Diabetics
- How Weight-Loss Surgery Improves Diabetes Control
- Hormone Shows Potential as Diabetes Treatment in Mice
- Bipolar Disorder Drugs May 'Tweak' Genes Affecting Brain
- New Diabetes Drug Expected This Week
- New Clues to How Exercise May Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
- Balding Men Could Face Higher Heart Risks, Study Finds
- Study Suggests Link Between Hormone Melatonin and Type 2 Diabetes
- Mini-Organ Would Mimic Pancreas to Treat Type 1 Diabetes
- Artificial Pancreas Worked Overnight on Kids With Type 1 Diabetes
- Countries With More Sugar in Food Supply Have More Diabetes
- Newest Diabetes Drugs Linked to Higher Pancreatitis Risk
- 1 in 8 Americans Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes: Poll
- Obese Black Women at Higher Risk for Having Very Large Babies
- Lucky Dogs Get Shot at Diabetes Cure
- First-Born May Be at Greater Risk for Diabetes, Hypertension
- Type 1 Diabetes Up 70 Percent in Kids, Study Finds
- Three New Drugs Approved for Type 2 Diabetes
- For Diabetes: BP, Cholesterol Key v. Heart Disease
- Preventing Kidney Disease May Cut Diabetes Deaths, Study Says
- For Texas Man, Bariatric Surgery Led to Diabetes-Free Life
- New Diabetes Guidelines May Lower Patient Medical Bills
- Saving Carbs for Dinnertime Might Help Control Weight
- Study Examines Link Between Breast Cancer and Diabetes
- Brown Fat Transplants May Spur Weight Loss
- Can Teens' Lack of Sleep Lead to Diabetes?
- Mouse Study Offers Clues to Obesity-Diabetes Link
- Health Tip: Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
- Healthy Diet May Prevent Additional Heart Trouble
- Diabetes Drug Metformin May Fight Cancer
- Supplements of Red Wine Antioxidant Don't Help Obese Men
- New Treatment Aids Weight Loss, Improves Diabetes in Monkeys
- Airport Security X-Rays May Damage Diabetes Devices
- World Diabetes Day Designed to Raise Awareness
- New Diabetes Drugs Have Different Advantages, Study Says
- High-Carb Diet Linked to Colon Cancer Recurrence in Study
- Popular Diabetes Meds Put to the Test
- Insomnia May Raise Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke
- Fewer U.S. Kids Dying of Diabetes: CDC
- Power Slowly Returns to Much of Northeast After Sandy
- Sandy's Death Toll Rises, Even as East Coast Struggles Back to Life
- Sandy's Wrath Brings Massive Blackouts, Flooding Across Northeast
- Q & A: Riding Out the Storm Safely
- Health Tip: Monitor Your Blood Glucose
- Obese Boys, Impotent Men?
- Red Wine Compound May Not Help Healthy Women
- Millions May Be Taking Vitamin D Unnecessarily, Analysis Suggests
- Health Tip: Learn About the A1C Test
- Sleepless Nights Might Raise Odds for Diabetes
- Interval Training Burns More Calories in Less Time
- Stem Cell Transplant May Spur Heart Disease Risk: Study
- Diabetes Patients Should Have More Voice in Treatment: Experts
- Changes in Intestinal Bacteria Linked to Type 2 Diabetes
- Child Obesity Risks May Be Greater Than Thought
- Belly Fat Adds to Diabetes Risk in Obese Adults, Study Finds
- Aerobic Exercise Cuts Kids' Diabetes Risk: Study
- Docs' Sensitivity to Patients' Feelings Tied to Good Outcomes
- Scientists ID Gene for Insulin Sensitivity
- Hispanics May Face Higher Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: Study
- Tight Blood Sugar Control Won't Help Babies After Heart Surgery
- Can Childhood Obesity Hinder the Brain?
- Obesity Might Lower Teens' Thinking Skills, Study Suggests
- Belly Fat May Hit Your Heart the Hardest
- Health Tip: On the Go With Diabetes
- Confusion Over Diabetes Types Adds to Patients' Woes
- Obesity May Affect Breast Cancer Recovery
- Radiation for Childhood Cancer Might Raise Diabetes Risk
- Weight Loss Surgery Prevents Diabetes
- Statins Won't Hurt, Might Even Help, Your Pancreas: Study
- 'Yo-Yo' Dieting Won't Harm Long-Term Weight Loss Efforts
- Pain Reported by Nearly Half With Type 2 Diabetes
- A Few Hours of Weekly Exercise May Help Women's Bones
- Scientists ID New Gene Regions Linked to Type 2 Diabetes
- Can TB Vaccine Stop Type 1 Diabetes?
- More Americans Walking, But Still Not Enough, CDC Says
- More Evidence That Exercise Helps Fight Diabetes
- Hormone May Boost Aging, Failing Brains
- Drug May Slow Memory Loss in Early Alzheimer's
- Curry Compound May Lower Diabetes Risk
- Weight Control Can Cut Women's Diabetes Risk, Study Shows
- Sex Life of Diabetic Women May Suffer
- The Health Benefits, and Risks, of Alcohol
- Alcohol Poses Serious Risks for Those With Diabetes
- Big Babies May Boost Mom's Breast Cancer Risk
- Police Work Takes Heavy Health Toll: Study
- New Devices Improve Diabetes Control
- Another Study Links Diabetes Drug Actos to Bladder Cancer
- Hot Flashes Don't Signal Poor Heart Health for Most Women: Study
- Newer 'Second-Line' Diabetes Drug May Outperform Older Meds
- 'Atkins'-Type Diets May Raise Risk of Heart Problems: Study
- All Calories Not Created Equal, Study Suggests
- 'Dessert' With Breakfast Boosts Weight Loss: Study
- Metformin Outperforms Common Class of Diabetes Drugs in Study
- Secondhand Smoke Linked to Raised Diabetes Risk
- Some Diabetics May Not Benefit From Daily Aspirin
- Liposuction Might Have 'Boomerang' Effect
- Diabetes Drug Metformin May Cut Breast Cancer Risk in Older Women
- Diabetes Drugs Avandia, Actos Linked to Vision Woes
- No Cancer Risk From Long-Acting Insulin: Studies
- Experimental Stem Cell Treatment Tested for Type 1 Diabetes
- Treating Prediabetes Might Prevent Full-Blown Disease
- Many People With Type 1 Diabetes Missing Treatment Goals: Study
- Diabetes Rising Rapidly Among U.S. Kids
- More Progress Made on Artificial Pancreas for Diabetes Patients
- Waist Size Alone May Predict Diabetes Risk
- C-Section May Hike Risk for Toddlers' Obesity, Study Suggests
- People With Diabetes May Need Earlier Colon Screen
- Death Rate Dropping for People With Diabetes
- Diabetes Can Take a Toll on Your Emotions
- Oxygen Therapy Slows Type 1 Diabetes in Mice, Study Says
- Exercise May Boost Survival in Breast, Colon Cancer Patients
- Joggers Live Longer, Study Says
- Type 2 Diabetes in Kids a Challenge to Control
- Two-Drug Therapy Helped Kids With Type 2 Diabetes
- Pick Dark Chocolate for Health Benefits
- Consumer Group to FDA: Take Victoza off the Market
- Diabetes Groups Issue New Guidelines on Blood Sugar
- Overweight Pregnant Women at Higher Risk for Complications
- Women Less Apt Than Men to Get Recommended Daily Exercise
- Mouse Study Hints at New Path for Diabetes Treatment
- Phthalates May Double Diabetes Risk
- Shift Work May Set Stage for Obesity and Diabetes
- Health Tip: Know Your Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis
- Mom's Health While Pregnant Linked to Autism Risk
- Improved Stem Cell Line May Avoid Tumor Risk: Study
- Diabetes Drug Metformin Might Also Help Fight Cancer
- Heavier Baby Girls at Higher Risk for Diabetes, Heart Woes as Adults
- Health Benefits of Chocolate Growing
- Cardiac Cocktail Delivered by Paramedics May Save Lives
- New Injection Might Lower Tough-to-Treat Cholesterol
- Weight Loss Surgery Puts Diabetes Into Remission
- Expert FAQ: Dealing With Excess Body Hair
- New Type 2 Diabetes Drug Helps Lower Blood Sugar: Study
- New Clues to Link Between Fatty Diet, Colon Cancer
- Insulin Resistance May Lead to Kidney Disease in the Elderly: Study
- Experimental Drug Shows Promise Against Cushing's Disease
- Prescription Meds Can Put on Unwanted Pounds
- Most Americans Don't Need Extra Selenium
- Experimental Drug Shows Promise Against Type 2 Diabetes
- Type 1 Diabetes May Develop More Slowly Than Thought
- Short Breaks During Exercise OK for Diabetes Control: Study
- Pancreas May 'Taste' Fructose, Hinting at Links to Diabetes
- Metformin Preferred Drug for Type 2 Diabetes, Experts Say
- Type 1 Diabetes Treatment Disappoints in Trial
- Popular Diabetes Drug Might Cut Pancreatic Cancer Risk: Study
- Gene Study Sheds Light on Body Clock's Link to Diabetes
- Too Much Fructose Sweetener Tied to Heart Risks in Teens
- Weekly Shot Gets FDA Nod for Type 2 Diabetes
- CDC: Big Drop in Diabetes Amputations
- Health Tip: Store Insulin Properly
- Health Highlights: Jan. 12, 2012
- Insulin-Linked Hormone May Also Raise Alzheimer's Risk
- Driving Isn't An Issue for Most People With Diabetes
- Health Tip: Diabetics, Pack Smart for Holiday Travel
- Brief, Intense Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar, Small Study Finds
- Apnea Treatment Might Reduce Signs of Heart Disease Risk
- Starchy Foods May Boost Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence
- Obesity Linked to Worse Outcomes With Early Breast Cancer
- Low Vitamin D May Raise Diabetes Risk in Kids
- Colon Cancer Prognosis Worse for the Obese, Type 2 Diabetics
- New FDA Guidelines for Testing Artificial Pancreas
- Women's High Blood Sugar Linked to Colorectal Cancer: Study
- Most Drug-Related Hospitalizations Due to Handful of Drugs
- Coffee May Cut Endometrial Cancer Risk
- Sugar-Sweetened Drinks May Pose Heart Risks to Women, Study Suggests
- Experimental Drug Slims Obese Monkeys
- Diabetes Linked to Precancerous Colon Growths
- Study Casts Doubt on Hot Dogs' Link to Colon Cancer
- 3 Hours of Exercise Weekly Can Cut Men's Heart Risks
- New Type 1 Diabetes Genes Found
- Asthma Can Complicate Diabetes Care in Kids
- Being Heavier May Mean Fewer Hot Flashes for Women Over 60
- Low-Carb Diets May Improve Acne
- No More Co-pay for Birth Control
- Not All Belly Fat Is Bad for the Heart
- FDA Panel Opposes New Type of Diabetes Drug
- Drug May Treat Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes
- Metformin: Safer for Heart Than Older Diabetes Drugs?
- Exercise After Meals Helps Control Blood Sugar
- New Insulin May Treat Dangerously Low Blood Sugar
- Very Low-Calorie Diet May Reverse Diabetes
- New Bladder Cancer Warning for Diabetes Drug Actos
- Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Victoza Helps Type 1, Too
- Coffee May Lower Prostate Cancer Risk
- Breastfeeding May Influence Long-Term Health: Study
- Diabetes Costs Are High for Young People
- Gastric Bypass May Improve Diabetes Quickly
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Rates Rising in U.S.
- Why Some May Avoid Type 1 Diabetes Complications
- Diabetes Drug Actos May Also Help Prediabetes
- Cocoa Rich in Health Benefits
- Unhealthy Diet Raises Heart Risk of Obese Teens
- Blood Test May Predict Risk of Diabetes
- Coffee May Lower Stroke Risk
- 384,000 J&J Animas Insulin Pump Cartridges Recalled
- Diabetes Risks Go Beyond Heart Attacks, Strokes
- What's the Best Test for Children's Diabetes?
- Fatty Liver May Be Linked to Diabetes Risk
- Wireless Sensor Monitors Heart Failure Patients
- Artificial Pancreas Could Help Pregnant Diabetic Women
- CDC: 26 Million Americans Have Diabetes
- Team Treatment Helps Depression, Chronic Disease
- Experts: Exercise Crucial for Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
- Vitamin D Levels at Birth May Predict Obesity Risk
- New Guidelines for Treatment of Depression
- Some Dieters Are Set Up to Regain Weight
- Breastfeeding May Lower Moms' Diabetes Risk
- Type 2 Diabetes May Have Link to Alzheimer's
- Resveratrol May Slow Aging in Humans
- Study: High-Fructose Diets May Raise Blood Pressure
- Inhaled Insulin May Help Treat Diabetes
- Low Vitamin D Linked to Poor Diabetes Control
- Sugar Water Eases Vaccine Pain for Babies
- Concerns Raised About Drugstore Genetic Test
- Dementia Risk Higher if Your Spouse Has Dementia
- Prehypertension, Prediabetes Predict Heart Risk
- Exercise During Pregnancy for Smaller Baby
- A1c Test Identifies Diabetes, Heart Risk
- Gestational Diabetes Underdiagnosed
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Top insulin Related ArticlesComplete List
Common Medical Abbreviations and Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
Diabetes Foot ProblemsLearn more about diabetes related foot problems. For people with diabetes, too much glucose in the blood can cause serious foot complications such as nerve damage, infection, and ulcers. Find tips for proper foot care to help prevent serious complications.
Diabetes MellitusDiabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Take the Diabetes QuizTake the Diabetes Quiz and learn the causes, signs, symptoms, and types of this growing epidemic. What does diabetes have to do with obesity and diet? Learn about life as a diabetic.
Diabetes Diet PlansDiscover the best and worst meals for diabetes-savvy dining. See how to avoid carbs and control your blood sugar with healthier meal combinations that retain all the foods and flavors you love.
Diabetes TreatmentThe major goal in treating diabetes is controlling elevated blood sugar without causing abnormally low levels of blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is treated with:
- and a diabetic diet.
- weight reduction,
- a diabetic diet,
- and exercise.
Diabetic Diet for Type 2 DiabetesA type 2 diabetes diet or a type 2 diabetic diet is important for blood sugar (glucose) control in people with diabetes to prevent complications of diabetes. There are a variety of type 2 diabetes diet eating plans such as:
- the Mediterranean diet,
- Paleo diet,
- ADA Diabetes Diet,
- and vegetarian diets.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that is first recognized during pregnancy and is characterized by high blood sugar. Approximately 4% of all pregnancies are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Low blood sugar is prevented by hormones produced by the placenta during a woman's pregnancy. The actions of insulin are stopped by these hormones. Gestational diabetes is the result of the pancreas' inability to produce enough insulin to overcome the effect of the increase hormones during pregnancy. Risk factors for gestational diabetes include:
- Previous history of gestational diabetes
- Having a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
- Personal history of PCOS
There typically are no signs and symptoms of gestational diabetes. Treatment includes diet modifications and if necessary, insulin.
Heart AttackHeart attack happens when a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack can cause chest pain, heart failure, and electrical instability of the heart.
HyperglycemiaHyperglycemia or high blood sugar is a serious health problem for diabetics. There are two types of hyperglycemia, 1) fasting, and 2)postprandial or after meal hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can also lead to ketoacidosis or hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). There are a variety of causes of hyperglycemia in people with diabetes. Symptoms include:
- increased thirst,
- blurred vision,
- frequent urination and more.
Insulin Pump For Diabetes MellitusAn insulin pump is designed to deliver insulin directly to a patient with diabetes. They are about the size of a standard beeper. The pump is attached to under the skin (usually on the abdomen). The amount of insulin required will depend on lifestyle (exercise, sleep patterns, activity level, and diet).
Protein QuizProtein is a staple in our diets, but what happens if we get too much? Take this quiz to find out the truth about protein and what's behind the high-protein diet craze!
Blood Sugar SwingsLearn to better control your glucose levels by preventing blood sugar swings. Beware of caffeine, sugary foods, spices, exercise, sleep, alcohol, and stress because these can all impact blood sugar levels and increase diabetes complications
Rheumatoid ArthritisRheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints, as well as other organs in the body. Because it can affect multiple other organs of the body, rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic illness and is sometimes called rheumatoid disease.
Take the Salt QuizDo you love salt? Take the online Salt Quiz to get the facts about dietary salts and sodium in fruits, vegetables, processed foods, snacks and soups!
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which a person's pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the needs of the body. Causes of type 2 diabetes are a sedentary lifestyle, eating excess sugar and carbohydrates, lack of exercise, being overweight, and genetics. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes are often subtle, but may include:
- Urine odor
- Unintentional weight gain or loss
- Frequent urination
- Dark skin under the chin, armpits, or groin
Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed by a blood test. Treatment for type 2 diabetes are a healthy type 2 diabetes diet, exercise, stress reduction, and medication. Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. Incorporating healthy lifestyle changes (for example, eating a healthy diet, exercising more, and reducing stress) can prevent type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes SlideshowLearn about type 2 diabetes warning signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Read how diet and exercise can help manage type 2 diabetes.