Effects of Types of Insulin on Your Body

Your diabetes may change over time, meaning that your insulin needs may also vary. It is important to realize that all insulin is not the same. Most diabetics are familiar with long- and short-acting insulin, but there are several other categories, too. Each has a distinct role and effect in helping to regulate blood glucose levels.

  • Rapid-acting insulin. Mainly implied by the name, this type of insulin has the fastest onset, averaging about 15 minutes. It peaks in 30 to 90 minutes and lasts one to five hours. Rapid-acting insulin covers insulin demands when eating meals at the time of injection.
  • Short-acting insulin. The onset of this kind of insulin is a little slower but lasts a bit longer. The average onset is 30 to 60 minutes. The peak is between two to four hours, and average duration is about five to eight hours. It is introduced 30 to 60 minutes before a meal.
  • Intermediate-acting insulin. This form of insulin lasts longer still. Onset averages between one to three hours, peak happens around four to twelve hours, and duration is somewhere between 18 to 26 hours. This insulin often covers needs for about half a day or overnight.
  • Long-acting insulin. As you would expect, this type of insulin lasts longest of all, up to 26 hours. Onset is typically one to two hours, with very minimal peaks because of the steady rate of insulin delivery.
  • Pre-mixed insulin. This is a handy method for taking a compound of two insulins in a single bottle or insulin pen. It is injected two to three times a day, before meals. Onset is within five to fifteen minutes. Peaks vary from 30 minutes up to 5 hours. The duration averages 10 to 24 hours.

Side Effects

Most insulin side effects are minimal, such as flu-like symptoms or low levels of potassium in the blood. However, two potential side effects are common to all forms of insulin.

  • Hypoglycemia. Getting too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia, or abnormally low blood sugar, because insulin acts to reduce the sugar in your bloodstream.
  • Weight gain. Some diabetics who start using insulin notice that they gain weight. This can occur because the extra insulin accumulation encourages the body to utilize sugar more efficiently in the bloodstream rather than excreting much of it.

Worthwhile Benefits

Insulin is an essential and vital cornerstone of diabetes care. It can assist in achieving and maintaining blood sugar goals, mitigate the risk of diabetes complications, and allow you to feel your best for years to come. By learning more about the effects that the five common types of insulin have on your body, you can monitor your response to your insulin and work together with your doctor to find the ideal treatment for you.


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