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The Differences Between Insulin Types

written by: CatNorth•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 8/18/2008

Tells the difference between the four types of insulin you can buy today.

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    There are four types of different insulin and three very important things that you need to know in order to understand them. The more that you can come to understand insulin and how it is used in the body the better choices you can make in your care and treatment for your diabetes.

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    The Characteristics of Insulin

    Insulin has three very distinct characteristics. One is onset. Onset is the length of time between you taking the insulin and the time that it reaches the blood and starts to work to lower your blood sugar number. The second characteristic is called peaktime. Peaktime is the length of time that the insulin that you take is at its maximum strength, or topout, in its lowering of your blood sugar. The third and last characteristic is called duration. Duration is the time that the insulin will lower your blood sugar. Knowing the onset, the peaktime, and the duration of the type of insulin that you are taking will help you understand your treatment better.

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    Types of Insulin

    Regular Insulin (Short Acting Insulin) – Regular insulin will reach the blood usually around 30 minutes after you take it (by injection). It reaches peaktime around 2-3 hours after you have taken it, and its duration is typically 3-6 hours.

    Rapid Acting Insulin – Rapid Acting Insulin will begin to work immediately upon taking your injection and will reach the peaktime in an hour. Its duration will last for about 2-4 hours.

    Long Acting Insulin – Long Acting Insulin will reach the bloodstream at a much slower rate, usually 6-10 hours after you have taken your injection. Its duration is about 20-24 hours in length.

    Intermediate Acting Insulin – Intermediate Acting Insulin will reach your bloodstream about 2-4 hours after you have taken your injection, will hit peaktime around 4-12 hours after, and then last a duration of about 12-18 hours.

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    Taking Insulin

    Many diabetics will take a mix of long lasting and short term insulin, either by mixing it themselves or by buying it in already mixed containers. Premixed vials come in 50/50, 75/25, or 70/30 mixes. Ask your doctor which is right for you and your particular diabetes condition.