NPH insulin is the abbreviation for Neutral Protamine Hagedorn Insulin, an intermediate acting insulin. However, the technical aspects of this name are not overly important for the lay person. NPH is also known as NPH Human Insulin and Humulin N (Eli Lilly and Company brand name).
NPH is highly effective for the treatment of diabetes. It is unique because it is an intermediate acting medication that provides up to 24 hours of glucose regulation. The onset takes approximately 1-2 hours, which is significantly slower than regular or rapid onset insulin. The peak time is 4-12 hours after injection and the maximum duration is 24 hours. Obviously, the effective duration of the medication will vary amongst users.
NPH is usually combined with a rapid or regular type of insulin to help provide the appropriate amount of insulin needed during meal times throughout the day.
Chemical Make Up
NPH is synthetic or man made. It is made in a laboratory using a non disease producing strain of Escherichia coli bacteria. This bacterium is genetically altered by scientists in such a way as it is able to produce insulin that is similar to that which the human body normally produces. Like all insulin, NPH is injected into the body subcutaneously.
Using NPH Insulin
While the medication does have a slower onset than some other types of diabetes controlling insulin products, it has the key benefit of being able to produce lasting results. Therefore, in order to use this medication, your doctor is likely to put you on a specific dose taking schedule. You will take the same dosage of the NPH Insulin each day, approximately the same time each day. This allows for the body to have a steady supply and control of insulin within the blood.
The amount and frequency of the dosage (some people may take the medication more than one time per day upon doctor’s direction) is dependent on a variety of aspects including physical activity, lifestyle and overall physical condition.
This particular type of insulin should not be used as an intravenous or muscular drip. It should only be injected into the body just under the skin. It is usually supplied to individuals through vials, cartridges or through pre-filled syringes called injection pens. The individual dosages and mixture of NPH will vary per individual.
As with all insulin injections, it is important for patients to monitor their blood sugars several times per day to ensure that the medication is working.
Possible Side Effects
Like most types of medications, NPH Insulin does have some possible side effects:
- You may experience hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. This is often evident by sweating, dizziness, irritability, hunger and palpitations.
- If you experience this danger drop in your blood sugar levels, contact your doctor immediately. You may need your dosage of NPH Insulin changed.
- It is possible to have hyperglycemia as a side effect. This occurs when the medication you are taking is unable to control your high blood sugar levels often because of improper dosing. If this occurs, consult your doctor immediately for treatment instead.
- Some people may have an allergic reaction to NHP Insulin. If you have any rash develop at the injection site or throughout the body, or you have a fever, difficulty breathing or other complications, consult an emergency room, especially in severe cases.
- If you have any other reaction to taking this medication, talk to your doctor about it right away. It is critical to avoid misuse of the medication which could cause some of these reactions.
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed April 2012.