In the previous article we looked into Ambulatory Glucose Profile, and how it helps diabetes patients to keep accurate track of their blood sugar levels. In this article, we will look into the role of insulin, its types, and its role in treating diabetes patients.
What is the biggest invention of the 20th century? I am sure many of us will have different answers. If you ask a diabetes patient the same question, most likely he or she will answer its insulin. If you consider the time frame before the invention of Insulin, it was a rough ride for many diabetes patients. People who suffered from diabetes are put under extreme diet control. More importantly, sugar patients’ life expectancy was much less even after following extreme diets.
Things started to change after the discovery of insulin in the year 1921. It was discovered by Canadian physician Frederick Banting, Charles H.Best who was a medical student, James B. Collip (a chemist) and Scottish psychologist J.J.R. Macleod. After several experiments, they discovered a peptide that reduced sugar level in blood. They separated this peptide found in pancreatic extracts of a Dog. This peptide is what we call as insulin. Insulin drastically changed the life of diabetes patients. They are awarded the Noble price for the same.
Role of Insulin in Diabetes
The pancreas secretes insulin. Carbohydrates present in the food we eat is converted into glucose during the digestion process, and it gets mixed into the blood. Excess glucose in the blood is converted to fats, and it is stored for future needs. As the body’s cells start to absorb glucose in the blood, its level starts to decline. Blood glucose levels for a healthy person stays at normal range.
During this whole process, glucose levels in the blood can either start to shoot up or decline. When there are high levels of glucose in the blood, we call this condition as hyperglycemia. Similarly, when there are low levels of glucose in the blood, we call it as hypoglycemia.
There will be no insulin secretion in people with type 1 diabetes. Damage or destruction of beta cells in the pancreas is the main reason for it. By taking insulin injection, they can avoid hyperglycemia condition.
Whereas, type 2 diabetes patients do have insulin secretion. But, their insulin quality will be bad or it will be secreted in lesser quantity. These people can keep their blood glucose within the normal range by using insulin injection. This will also help to prevent possible kidney failures in future.
Not all type 2 diabetes patients are prescribed insulin. Initially, they will be advised to keep their glucose levels under control through diets, exercises, lifestyle changes. Additionally, Doctors might prescribe some tablets to go with it. Insulin will only be administered if these steps fail to keep blood sugar levels under control.
Types of Insulin
There are many types of insulin. Five to be precise. Doctor’s will prescribe these insulins depending upon patient’s condition.
- Rapid-acting Insulin: After injecting, this insulin will start to work in 15 minutes. Its function will reach its peak in one hour. It will stay active for 2 to 4 hours. Usually, this is injected just before having the food.
- Short-acting Insulin: Short-acting insulin will start to work after 30 minutes from the time it was injected. It will reach its peak in 2 to 3 hours. It continues to stay active for 3 to 6 hours. Generally, It is prescribed to be taken just before having food, along with long-acting insulin.
- Intermediate-acting Insulin: After it is injected, it will start to work after 2 to 4 hours. It will reach its peak in 4 to 12 hours. It will act for 12 to 18 hours. Commonly, this insulin is prescribed for two days a week, along with either rapid-acting or short-acting insulin.
- Long-acting Insulin: Long-acting insulin will take very long time to start working after it’s injected. It will stay active for nearly 24 hours. It will be prescribed for use along with rapid-acting and short-acting insulin.
- Ultra-long-acting insulin: This is relatively a new invention. This type of insulin will act for nearly 96 hours after it’s injected. Apart from acting for a longer time duration, using this insulin will avoid the need for frequent insulin injections.
There are several instruments like a syringe, injection pen, and insulin pump which are used to administer insulin. Patient’s lifestyle, blood sugar levels, their capacity to regulate their blood glucose levels, type of diabetes (type 1 or type 2) will be taken into consideration by Doctors to advice right insulin type for their patients.