How Does Insulin Work?

By on August 11, 2013

insulinHow does insulin work? Insulin is at the center of the universe for people with diabetes. While other topics are often discussed more frequently, the core of diabetes treatment is making sure you get enough insulin to function properly.

Nonetheless, it is surprising to search various diabetes websites and see relatively little focus on this important subject.

Well not here! On this page there is a tremendous amount of information on insulin to get you up to speed on whatever you are looking to learn.

I also like this very thorough video on insulin. It discusses the types of insulin, concentrations and even some injecting tips. If you like your information in video format, this will get you started.

Brand Names

Rapid Acting Insulin
Generic Name Brand Type Company
Insulin Aspart Novolog Analog Novo Nordisk
Insulin Glulisine Apidra Analog Sanofi-Aventis
Insulin Lispro Humalog Analog Eli Lilly Nordisk
Regular Insulin
Generic Name Brand Type Company
Regular Humulin R Human Eli Lilly
Regular Novolin R Human Novo Nordisk
Intermediate Acting Insulin
Generic Name Brand Type Company
NPH Humulin N Human Eli Lilly
NPH Novolin N Human Novo Nordisk
Long Acting Insulin
Generic Name Brand Type Company
Insulin Detemir Levemir Analog Novo Nordisk
Insulin Glargine Lantus Analog Sanofi-Aventis
Insulin Mixes
Generic Name Brand Type Company
70/30 NPH and Regular Humulin 70/30 Human Eli Lilly
70/30 NPH and Regular Novolin 70/30 Human Novo Nordisk
50/50 Lispro Protamine* and Insulin Lispro Humulog Mix 50/50 Analog Eli Lilly
50/50 Lispro Protamine* and Insulin Lispro Humalog Mix 75/25 Analog Eli Lilly
70/30 Aspart Protamine and Aspart Novolog Mix 70/30 Analog Novo Nordisk

*Lispro Protamine is only available as a mix.

Other Insulin: Please note that there are 1 or 2 other insulin types but they are very rare. Also, most insulin sold in the United States

Insulin Size or Strength: In the United States, insulin is most commonly sold as U-100. This is a unit of measurement and means that there is 100 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid. Sometime you may see U-500, which means there are 500 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid. Outside the U.S., insulin is typically sold in U-40 strength, so make sure you have enough insulin and syringes for your trip.

Human vs. Analog Insulin: You will note that one of the columns above denotes whether the insulin is analog or human. When synthetic insulin was first developed, it was called “human.” As technology evolved, synthetic insulin was developed that could take on different properties, they called these “analog” insulin. Most endocrinologist recommend analog insulin nowadays.

We have broken down some of the more common insulin types or brands in the following articles.

In the future, scientist are also working on an alternative to injectable insulin. We provide an overview of one such technology called oral insulin (a.k.a. inhaled). Check out this current update on this breakthrough possibility.

Insulin Delivery

Here is where the rubber meets the road, insulin delivery or injections. What are the best insulin injection sites? Where are they? What site is appropriate for which insulin type (rapid acting, intermediate, etc.) and delivery method (injection, insulin pump, etc.)?

What are the different insulin syringes? Why are there different needles? What syringes hurt the least? What are the needles best for you? Do different countries use different syringes? Take a look at the articles and see what you think.

Learning how to inject insulin properly is critical to long term health (and Pain Avoidance!). Are there better ways than others to do this?

Is Sliding Scale Insulin treatment right for you? Are there better options? We do our best to keep you informed of your options.

Side Effects

Unfortunately, side effects can and will happen. One common side effect is insulin shock. Find out what it is, how it occurs, the symptoms and what the best treatment options are.

Are there other insulin side effects? Learn what they are and how to best treat them before they happen.

More Information

Still want more? Take a look at the following:

How Is Synthetic Insulin Made: Fascinating account of how synthetic insulin developed. After this scientific breakthrough using animal insulin was no longer required.

How to Boost Your Insulin Production: Interesting ideas about how you can increase your insulin levels, without shots!

What is the Role of the Liver and Blood Sugar Management? Nice overview of how your liver helps your diabetes health.

What is the treatment for hyperinsulinism?: Most diabetics worry about not having enough insulin, but from this article you should also be aware of the opposite situation.

Function of Insulin: Great overview of how insulin actually works. Insulin is such a huge part of a diabetics life, sometimes it is good to take a step back and learn what it actually does and how.

Insulin Treatments: This article just provides a very basic primer of insulin and some of the common terms you may come across. Good for beginners.

There is so much more to learn and know. Hopefully, we have covered the basics and helped you get started.