Normally, insulin is released from the pancreas to help control our blood glucose levels. For diabetic people, this normal bodily function is does not work effectively, so taking insulin several times a day via injections or a pump aims to imitate the normal pattern of insulin production from the pancreas as closely as possible.
What are the different types of insulin?
The insulin used by type 1 diabetics is made in 3 different ways:
- Animal – made from animal sources like pork or beef
- Human – not from humans but made in a lab to match human insulin
- Analogue – made in a lab to have the same effect as insulin, but designed to work at different speeds.
These days it is more common to use human or analogue insulins.
Here young people talk about the types of insulin they have used, the one they are currently using and why some have changed their insulin routine.
Some young people preferred not to change their current insulin routine because they were worried it might mean increasing the number of injections per day. Others described how since changing their routine, they no longer need to eat snacks between meals, meaning that their lives had become much easier.
She does not like the idea of injecting more than two times per day.
Changing your insulin regime
Most of the young people we talked to had changed their insulin routine one or more times since they’d first been diagnosed. Many did so because they’d found it difficult to control their diabetes during their teen years. They described how their control worsened as they reached puberty due to hormonal changes. They experienced more frequent and unexplained hypos (low blood sugar) and/or highs. As teenagers, people wanted to find an insulin routine which allowed them to be more flexible and independent. (See also ‘Hypos’, ‘Highs‘; ‘Diet and diabetes’ and ‘Managing diabetes as a teenager’.)
Recently he changed to another insulin regimen because he started to have problems controlling…
His consultant suggested that he tried another insulin regimen because he was having lots of…
He likes his new insulin regimen but strongly dislikes the disposable pen that he needs to use…
Some young people said that their previous insulin regime had been inflexible and too complicated. Many young people said that they didn’t like regimes where they had to eat snacks between meals whether they felt hungry or not although this regime is unusual now.
She found that as she grew up her insulin regimen was too inflexible and unpractical.
Some young people had experienced problems with some types of insulin routine. One young woman, diagnosed as a child, became irritable and very tired when starting to use a new insulin routine. Doctors kept trying various types of routine until they found one that suited her and her lifestyle. Another young woman who’d been on the same insulin routine for 13 years was advised to change to another type of insulin to allow for a more flexible routine. One week later she became very ill and was admitted into hospital with DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). She had several episodes of DKA which didn’t stop until after she was put back onto her original type of insulin but with more frequent injections. It’s very important to closely monitor blood glucose levels (doing the ‘finger-pricking’ as instructed by the consultant or nurse) especially when changing insulin regimens.
Her insulin was changed to give her greater flexibility but she reacted badly to the new insulin…
Flexible insulin regimen
Many of the young people we talked to said that basal/bolus regime gave them flexibility, independence and control. They said that they didn’t have to wait before having a meal; they can inject and eat straightaway. However they also said that knowing more about carbohydrate counting helped (see also ‘Diet and diabetes‘). One young man felt a bit upset because he couldn’t see any noticeable improvements at the start of his new regimen. A young woman said that the new-found freedom made her less cautious and she started to eat more chocolate than usual. Young people really appreciated the fact that their new regime meant that they were now able to have ‘a lie-in’ rather than having to wake up early at weekends just to do their insulin injection.
Talks about how she learnt to do carbohydrate counting when started using fast acting insulin.
Says that one of the advantages of her insulin regimen is that she can have a lie in.
Fixed insulin regimen
Some young people found that a fixed routine helps them to manage their diabetes better. One young man recommended doing a set routine when you are first diagnosed because it would be less scary than ‘going it alone’. A young woman who used to have a insulin pump changed back to a fixed insulin routine and doesn’t see the need to change to a 4-injections-a-day regimen.
He found his fixed insulin regimen a pain but prefers it to the flexible one.
It was reassuring to have a fixed regimen when first diagnosed.
Initially she found it difficult to go back to injecting insulin after using a insulin pump. She…
Finding the right insulin routine depends on being aware of what your eating patterns are likely to be and checking the results with daily glucose tests, especially when you unexpectedly eat more or less than usual. (See also ‘Diet and diabetes‘, ‘Doing blood glucose tests’ and ‘Managing diabetes as a teenager‘.)