When Do I Need Insulin Shots?

Medically reviewed by Mitchie Gonzales-Montalbo, MD · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Sep 22, 2022

    When Do I Need Insulin Shots?

    Merely saying the word “insulin” calls to mind the dreaded condition that is diabetes. For anyone with cursory awareness of diabetes, we associate it with a means of battling the condition. We’ve heard how it can help normalize the blood sugar in a diabetic person. Most people, however, likely don’t know when to take insulin.

    What Is Insulin?

    Insulin is a natural hormone produced by the pancreas that helps the body process glucose from food into energy.

    Artificial insulin cannot be consumed in pill form because it can be destroyed in the digestive process. Instead, the hormone needs to be injected into the body, specifically in the fat tissue beneath the skin. Other ways of administering it are with injection pens and pumps.

    Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. As blood sugar drops, so does the secretion of the hormone from your pancreas.

    Insulin injections are essential for patients with type 1 diabetes because there is lack of insulin production. For patients with type 2 diabetes, insulin may be started for intermittent or continuous glycemic control, if diabetes is still uncontrolled with two or more oral diabetes medications.

    When To Take Insulin

    Insulin is available in rapid-, short-, intermediate-, and long-acting types. These may be injected separately or mixed in the same syringe. It is also commercially available in concentrations of 100 or 500 units/ml.

    Regular or long-acting insulin should generally be taken 15 to 30 minutes before a meal. The insulin lispro known by its brand name Humalog, works very quickly. That should generally be taken less than 15 minutes before you eat. The delivery is timed with meals to effectively process the glucose entering your system.

    Your doctor will determine the frequency of injection. Most diabetics need at least two shots a day. Some need three or four shots to maintain good blood sugar control. A patient’s personal health care team can help find a routine that keeps their blood sugar near normal. That will help them feel good and fit into their lifestyle.

    For Type 1 Diabetes

    Usually, patients with Type 1 diabetes starts with 4 injections per day to cover for both basal and prandial coverages. They generally progress to three to four injections per day of different types of the hormone.

    For Type 2 Diabetes

    For Type 2 diabetes patients, they may have one or more injections a day, with or without oral diabetes medications, depending on the type of Insulin that has been prescribed, and on the level of diabetes control. Insulin should be tailored to the patient’s eating habits, economical means, local availability of the said insulin and preference as well.

    The type and dosage of insulin used should be consistent. To ensure this, the patient’s diabetes care team should periodically review the patient’s injection technique. They also need to know the relationship of blood sugar levels to exercise, food intake, illnesses, certain medications, and stress.

    Concerns Over Injection

    Research published in 2008 had 100 patients with type 2 diabetes as subjects. That study saw 33% of subjects unwilling to take it. Their concerns centered around hypoglycemia, permanent need for therapy, less flexibility, and feelings of failure. Less than 40% of the subjects had a fear of self-injection or thought they were painful.

    In the end, whether willing to take insulin or afraid of it, a patient needs to consult with their doctor. It’s up to the doctor to determine any increase in dosage, but the cooperation of the patient is essential.

    Key Takeaways

    The use of insulin plays a critical part in the way diabetics maintain regular lives. Knowing when to take it is important to normalize their blood sugar levels throughout the day. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics have shown receptiveness to insulin use. While different types of insulin may be mixed and dosage may increase, consultation with your doctor is best before making any change.

    For more on diabetes, click here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mitchie Gonzales-Montalbo, MD

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Sep 22, 2022