Insulin is a medication that is used for controlling blood sugar levels in adults and children who have type 1 diabetes and in some adults who have type 2 diabetes. There are many types of insulin medications available, and most healthcare providers will recommend a certain regimen for each individual person. Sometimes a healthcare provider will prescribe the drug for unapproved uses. For example, using the medication to treat high potassium levels is an off-label use of insulin.
What Is Insulin Used For?Insulin is used to help control blood sugar levels in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is used to replace the body's natural insulin when the pancreas has lost the ability to make insulin (or make enough insulin).
Using an Insulin RegimenIn healthy people without diabetes, insulin levels do not stay the same throughout the day; instead, they fluctuate in response to changes in blood sugar levels. In order to mimic the natural insulin changes that help keep blood sugar safely controlled, many healthcare providers recommend various insulin regimens. These regimens often involve a long- or intermediate-acting insulin to provide a basal insulin level (a relatively steady background level of insulin throughout the day). A short- or rapid-acting insulin is added to provide the bolus (a quick, fast-acting, short-lived dose of insulin) to handle the sudden rise in blood sugar levels that follows each meal.
No single insulin regimen is right for all people (or even for the same person in all situations). You and your healthcare provider will decide which insulin regimen best suits your lifestyle, your eating habits, and your blood sugar goals.
In some situations, you and your healthcare provider may prefer an "aggressive" insulin regimen. Although this method may help reduce the risk of long-term diabetes complications, it also increases the risk of dangerously low blood sugar levels. Some people may need more relaxed insulin dosing, especially if they live alone (making it difficult to adequately respond to low blood sugar levels) or if they are elderly (in which case the long-term consequences are less important).