Type 1 Diabetes and Insulin

Types of Insulin, Where to Inject It, and the Best Methods for Insulin Delivery

Written by Daphne E. Smith-Marsh PharmD, CDE
Reviewed by W. Patrick Zeller MD


It’s necessary to take insulin when you have type 1 diabetes. Your body doesn’t produce the hormone insulin, and without that, your body can’t properly get the energy and fuel it needs from glucose. Because people with type 1 diabetes rely on insulin, it was formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes.
To learn about how the hormone insulin works, we have an article that explains the role of insulin.
As soon as you are (or your child is) diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you will be immersed in the world of insulin, and it may feel overwhelming at first. There are doses to calculate, different types of insulin to consider, and the pressure of needing to keep blood glucose in a normal range to prevent short- and long-term complications.
Your diabetes treatment team is there to help you. They can walk you through the basics of insulin dosing, answer any questions, and help you figure out how to balance food, exercise, and insulin. You will learn to take care of your diabetes with your diabetes team. If you are a parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, we also encourage you to visit our Patients' Guide to Managing Your Child's Type 1 Diabetes.
It's often comforting to hear stories about others who are also going through the same things you are. Jay Cutler, quarterback for the Chicago Bears, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2008, and he is still getting used to regular blood sugar testing and insulin injections. To learn more about his journey with type 1 diabetes, read Jay Cutler's interview with EndocrineWeb.

This article will provide basic details on insulin treatment. You can also visit our Patients' Guide to Insulin for more details.

Types of Insulin
With type 1 diabetes, you will need to take insulin on a daily basis, and there are several types of insulin you can take. These various types of insulin each act at a different speed and serve a different purpose, and you’ll most likely take a combination of insulin.
The types of insulin are:
How Much Insulin Should You Take?
Your doctor will calculate the dosage for you (or your child) the first time you take insulin, and he or she will work with you to figure out the best insulin plan. He or she will take into consideration your weight, age, diet, overall health, and treatment goals.
After you have the doctor’s plan, you will adjust the insulin doses, based on how your blood glucose level responds. Say, for example, that you take a certain dose before breakfast. If your blood glucose is too high afterwards, you know that you should take more insulin the next time.
Figuring out the best insulin dose is a matter of trial and error. You should work closely with your diabetes treatment team to monitor how well your insulin is working, and to adjust the insulin dose to achieve your blood sugar (blood glucose) goals.
Where Should You Inject the Insulin?
There are four main areas to inject insulin:
A few notes about insulin injection sites:
Again, your doctor and diabetes treatment team will walk you through where to inject insulin and other important details.
Newer, Easier Ways to Inject Insulin
You have many options for “insulin delivery,” as it’s called. Companies and researchers are always looking for better, less painful, and more convenient ways to get insulin into the body.
For a long time, most people used syringes and needles. Now, many people are using insulin pens and other injection devices.
Another option for insulin delivery is an insulin pump. That’s a battery-driven device that gives your body insulin, just like the pancreas does, and it does it constantly. The pump is worn externally (like a pager or cell phone, it can be clipped on your belt), but there is usually a tube and needle that send insulin under the skin.
A Final Insulin Reassurance
There are a lot of options and things to think about when it comes to insulin. However, if you can get a handle on how insulin works and its effect on your body, you will be able to manage your day-to-day life with diabetes.