There are three main types of Insulin

1. Background Insulin (Basal)

This type of insulin provides a gentle continuous supply of insulin, even when asleep. Examples are:

  • Medium acting e.g. Insulatard, Humulin I
  • Long Acting Insulin: these can be taken in one or two doses daily. E.g. Lantus® (Glargine), Levemir® (Detemir).

Long acting insulin is also referred to as “Cloudy Insulin” or “Milky” with the exception of Lantus® and Levemir® which are clear.

insulin needle2. Meal Related Insulin (Bolus)

This type of insulin provides a boost to control glucose produced by the meal. This pattern of insulin secretion is produced naturally in people who do not have diabetes. Examples are:

  • Rapid Acting Insulin: this can be injected up to 15 minutes before a meal, during or up to 15 minutes after your meal (analogue) e.g. Novorapid, Humalog
  • Short acting e.g. Actrapid, Humulin S

Fast acting insulin can be referred to as “Clear Insulin” (like water)

3. Pre-Mixed Insulin

  • Pre-mixed e.g. Mixtard, Humulin M3
  • Pre-mixed analogue e.g. Novomix 30, Humalog Mix 25 or 50

The mixed insulins are normally injected twice a day.

Many Diabetics find the base/bolus regime, using a long acting insulin and a bolus insulin for their meals, to be better for control even though it means more injections than the mixed insulins. Incidentally, contrary to belief, insulin injections do not hurt. The finger pricks you do to test your BG are far more painful!

There are four insulin manufacturers in the UK. More information on their insulins, together with the action profiles of the various insulins can be found on their websites. Knowing the action profile of your insulin can greatly improve your diabetes management.

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