Types of Regular Insulin
Many diabetics need to inject a few types of insulin. There are diabetics who use intermediate- or long -acting as well as rapid- or short-acting insulin to control their blood sugar level. The intermediate- or long-acting insulin may be used to maintain a certain blood sugar level for the whole day while the rapid- or short-acting insulin is used only after meals. Insulin is injected into the bloodstream but research is being done to explore other ways to administer insulin, possibly as a spray into the nose or in a patch for the skin.
Most people believe insulin is just one medication. In actual fact, there are many types of insulin. Each type is used to achieve a particular purpose. To achieve more than one purpose, some people have to take a few injections of insulin.
Basic Types of Insulin
- Short-acting : Novolin R®, Humulin® R (regular insulin).
- Rapid-acting : Humalog® (Insulin lispro), NovoLog® (Insulin aspart), Apidra® (Insulin glulisine).
- Long-acting : Levemir® (Insulin detemir), Lantus® (Insulin glargine).
- Intermediate-acting : Novolin R®, Humulin® R (NPH insulin).
Diabetes Patient Education Types of insulin – Video Guide
Insulins and Their Actions
The most important difference among the several types of insulin was the speed at which they begin or end their effect and when their peak is reached. For example, rapid-acting insulin begin, peak and end faster than short-acting insulin which begin, peak, and end their effect slower. Taken before meals, both short- and rapid-acting insulins are the right medications for preventing high blood sugar levels that happen after meals.
- Long-acting insulins are very similar to intermediate-acting ones. However, long-acting insulin’ effect last a little longer with little or no peak. The period of its effect is one full day. However, some diabetics may need a long-acting insulin every twelve hours. At mealtime, a short- or rapid-acting insulin has to be taken too.
- Intermediate-acting insulins begin, peak, and end their effect later than either rapid- or short-acting insulin. The period of their effect is approximately twelve hours a day. Usually they are used together with either a rapid- or short -acting insulin for after meal surges of blood sugar.( see Chart of Insulin Action Times )
- Combination insulin are taken before the two main meals of the day. The combination insulins consist of either a rapid- or short-acting insulin and an intermediate-acting insulin. The rapid- or short- acting insulin is for blood sugar surges after meals while the intermediate-acting insulin provides whole-day coverage.
Obsolete Insulin Types
Many types of insulin are no longer in use today. These types of insulin originated from pigs (porcine insulin) or cows(bovine insulin). There was a time when it was not possible to produce human insulin in a laboratory. It was only when recombinant D.N.A technology was developed, that human insulin could be manufactured to replace bovine or porcine insulin. Now, in the United States, bovine and porcine insulins are obsolete.
However, it is not only animal insulins that are no longer in the market. Some types of insulin are no longer available because of their poor sales. Examples of such insulins are :
- Exubera® (inhaled insulin)
- Ultralente® (a long-acting insulin)
- Lente® (an intermediate-acting insulin).
Will there be less painful ways of taking insulin?
Insulin injections are inconvenient and painful. So, scientists have been looking for alternative methods of sending the various types of insulin into the bloodstream. Once, there was Exubera, the insulin which can be inhaled. Despite the initial interest in Exubera, it failed when its sales dropped. Nevertheless, there is always hope that, one day, the many types of insulin can be administered through a nasal spray , a skin patch or with a sublingual tablet.