In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not make insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin shots each day. People with type 2 diabetes may need insulin shots if the pancreas does not make enough insulin or if oral medications do not lower blood glucose levels effectively.
Storage of Insulin
Insulin can go bad if not stored properly. Ask your pharmacist for the correct way to store vials of insulin, insulin pens or cartridges.
- Insulin should be kept refrigerated at 36-46 degrees F.
- Unopened bottles of insulin can be kept until the expiration date if they are refrigerated.
- When opening a new vial of insulin, write the date on the label. Discard opened vials of insulin after 30 days.
- Do not use insulin past the expiration date.
- Keep insulin away from extreme heat like sunlight, an oven, a car or a radiator. Keep insulin away from extreme cold like a freezer or an air conditioner.
- Check the label to be sure you are using the correct type of insulin.
- Insulin should not have clumps, crystals or strings in it.
- Ask your pharmacist if your insulin should be clear or cloudy.
- If your insulin looks different than usual, return the unopened bottle to the pharmacy where you bought it.
Types of Insulin
There are many types of insulin. They differ in onset (when they start to work), peak (when they work the hardest) and duration (how long they continue to work).
Check with your doctor, diabetes educator or pharmacist to see what the expected peak and duration times are for the insulin you use.
Onset Time of Insulins
Bolus insulin takes effect quickly and works for a short time. This insulin helps control blood sugars after eating.
Rapid acting insulin (lispro or aspart) is a clear bolus insulin usually taken before meals. It starts to work in 5 15 minutes. Eat immediately after injecting to avoid a low blood sugar reaction.
Short acting insulin (regular) is a clear bolus insulin taken before meals. It starts to work in 30 - 60 minutes. Eat 30 minutes after injecting to avoid a low blood sugar reaction.
Background insulin is slower to take effect and works for a longer time. It provides insulin between meals and/or overnight.
Intermediate acting insulin (NPH) is a cloudy background insulin that starts to work in 2-4 hours. Before drawing up this insulin, gently roll it between your palms 10 times to mix it.
Long acting (Ultralente) is a cloudy background insulin that starts to work in 6 - 10 hours. Before drawing up this insulin, gently roll it between your palms 10 times to mix it.
Long acting (glargine) is a clear background insulin that starts to work in 1 hour. Do not mix this insulin in the same syringe with any other insulin.
- A combination of rapid and intermediate-acting insulin. It starts to work in 5-15 minutes. Eat immediately after injecting.
- A combination of short and intermediate-acting insulin. It starts to work in about 30 minutes. Eat 30 minutes after injecting.
Managing Diabetes Menu
This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician and/ or other health care providers relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition. In no event will the Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided within this website.