Patients' Guide to Insulin

Patients' Guide to Insulin: About Diabetes

Basics of Diabetes and How Insulin Can Help

The purpose of the Patients' Guide to Insulin is to educate patients, parents, and caregivers about insulin treatment of diabetes.  By reviewing this information, you’re taking an important step to learn about diabetes and how insulin controls the disease to help you live a healthier life.

About Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association defines diabetes as a “disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin.”  The cause of diabetes may be tied to environmental factors and/or genetics.  In some types of diabetes (see below for an explanation of the types), a sedentary lifestyle (including being overweight) can influence the development of diabetes.  Sometimes the cause is related to surgical removal of the pancreas or temporary effects from corticosteroids (e.g., for rheumatoid arthritis or transplants), beta blockers (e.g., for angina), or phenytoin (e.g., for epileptic seizures).

When you eat, food is digested and broken down into different compounds.  Glucose, a simple sugar, is one of those compounds.  Your body uses glucose to produce energy, grow, self-repair, and perform other cellular functions.  However, before cells can use glucose, insulin is needed to move glucose from the blood into the cells.

Your pancreas, an organ found behind the stomach, produces many hormones including insulin.  More specifically, the islets of Langerhans are special pancreatic cells, called beta cells that produce insulin.

  • Type 1 diabetes (formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) develops if the body’s immune system destroys the pancreatic beta cells.  Therefore, people with type 1 cannot produce insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes (formerly called non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus) is the most common types of diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes develops from insulin resistance and insulin deficiency. Insulin resistance means that the body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should; it’s resistant to insulin.  Type 2 diabetes can also develop because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin.  Sometimes insulin therapy is necessary, but type 2 diabetes may be controlled through diet, exercise, and medications.

This Patients' Guide to Insulin is for patients diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

View Sources