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What Is Insulin?


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Type 2 diabetes used to be called non-insulin dependent diabetes because it was previously thought that type II diabetes would not require insulin injections. This is not the case.

For people suffering from type II diabetes there will come a time, for most at least, when oral medication is supplemented with insulin injections to maintain the sugar levels in their blood.

Injections of insulin are the most powerful way of reducing blood sugar.

Types of insulin:

• Short term insulin which acts quickly
• Long term insulin which has a smoother and more progressive effect over a longer period of time
• Artificial insulin
• Animal derived insulin
• Human derived insulin

It will be up to the patient and their healthcare professional to decide the most appropriate insulin to use for the treatment of their type II diabetes and to closely monitor the patient’s diabetic control and how it changes over time.

In addition to oral medications and insulin injections there is another treatment for diabetes called an insulin pump. This is a very clever devise which has gained recent media attention. An insulin pump is an electronic devise that is implanted under the skin and works in a very similar way to the pancreas. The role of the pancreas is to manufacture insulin and release it into the bloodstream, allowing the right amount of sugar to be present in the blood.

Insulin pump

Similarly, an insulin pump contains a reservoir of insulin and is able to measure the amount of insulin needed and release it slowly into the body. Insulin pumps will need to be topped up with more insulin from time to time; however, the advantage of an insulin pump is that it means an individual does not have to inject themselves. Whilst insulin injections are not complicated to administer or distressing for the patient it can be socially limiting and not something many people want to do.

The insulin pump is just one example of the new technologies being developed to treat diabetes. Research into treating diabetes more effectively is ongoing. New treatments are just around the corner.

Dr Paul Stillman, General Practitioner
Expert in health education
Chief medical adviser of Streaming Well

 

10055 Reviewed November 2012

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