Health & Wellness

Get a Handle on Diabetes Medication

The more you know, the better you’ll feel

Senior asian woman taking medications with glass of water

Type 2 Diabetes Medications: Getting It Right.

There are many different types of drugs that can work in different ways to lower your blood glucose (blood sugar). Sometimes one medication will be enough, but in other cases, your doctor may prescribe a combination of medications.

Talking to your doctor to understand what is being prescribed and how it works can be helpful. And keeping an open mind helps, too.

More on Type 2 Diabetes Medications

All About Insulin

Type 1 diabetes means using insulin. However, if you have type 2 diabetes, treatment plans can change depending on who you are.  Some people can manage it with healthy eating and exercise, or with oral medications, while others may also need to use insulin.

It’s common for your medication needs to change over time. And that’s a good thing. The most important thing is to get to feeling your best.

Teen girl on bed checking blood glucose with lancet

A Quick Guide to Insulin

If you’re just starting out with insulin, it can take a little getting used to. With a little practice, you’ll be a pro in no time.

Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone secreted by your pancreas. If you are prescribed insulin, it may be because your body doesn’t produce it (type 1 diabetes) or your body doesn’t use it properly (type 2 diabetes).

There are many different types of insulin sold in the United States, which differ in how they’re made, how they work in the body, and how much they cost. It’s also available in different strengths—most commonly, U-100. Your doctor will help you find the right type of insulin for your health needs.

When it comes to syringes, your doctor will advise on which capacity you need based on your insulin dose. In general, smaller capacity syringes can be easier to read and draw an accurate dose. Here are some tips:

  • If your largest dose is close to the syringe's maximum capacity, consider buying the next size up in case your dosage changes
  • If you need to measure doses in half units, be sure to choose a syringe that has these markings
  • If you're traveling outside of the United States, be certain to match your insulin strength with the correct size syringe


How It Works

When it comes to insulin, you’ll get to know three terms: onset, peak time, and duration. The onset is how long it takes for the insulin to start lowering your blood glucose. The peak time is when it’s at its maximum strength, and duration is how long it continues to work.

Here’s a quick look at the different types of insulin. If you need a mix of two types, you can talk to your doctor about getting a premixed supply.

Rapid-acting insulin begins to work about 15 minutes after injection, peaks in about 1 hour, and continues to work for 2 to 4 hours

Regular or short-acting insulin usually reaches the bloodstream within 30 minutes after injection, peaks anywhere from 2 to 3 hours after injection, and is effective for approximately 3 to 6 hours

Intermediate-acting insulin generally reaches the bloodstream about 2 to 4 hours after injection, peaks 4 to 12 hours later, and is effective for about 12 to 18 hours

Long-acting insulin reaches the bloodstream several hours after injection and tends to lower glucose levels fairly evenly over a 24-hour period

Learn more about insulin