What Is NPH Insulin Used For?
NPH insulin is used for controlling blood sugar levels throughout the day in people with diabetes. It is an intermediate-acting form of insulin that produces a lower peak, starts working more slowly, and lasts longer than regular insulin. NPH insulin uses are approved for both adults and children.
NPH Insulin Uses
NPH insulin (Humulin® N, Novolin® N) is a form of human insulin used to help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It is classified as an intermediate-acting insulin and is used to control blood sugar throughout the day. As an intermediate-acting insulin, it starts working more slowly, produces a lower peak, and lasts longer than regular human insulin.
In healthy people without diabetes, insulin levels fluctuate throughout the day 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 "basal-bolus" insulin regimens. These regimens often involve a long- or intermediate-acting insulin such as NPH insulin to provide a basal insulin level (a relatively steady background level of insulin throughout the day). A rapid- or short-acting insulin is added to provide "bolus" doses to control the spike in blood sugar that occurs after meals.
Some people (especially those with type 2 diabetes) may be able to take NPH insulin without adding a rapid- or short-acting insulin.
How Does NPH Insulin Work?
NPH insulin is a form of insulin, which is a hormone that is naturally produced by the pancreas. This hormone is important for several functions, such as controlling blood sugar. Insulin helps the cells of your body remove glucose ("sugar") from your bloodstream. This sugar fuels your body's cells, giving them the energy they need to work properly. You may need to take insulin if your pancreas has trouble making enough insulin, which is the case in people with type 1 diabetes and in some people who have type 2 diabetes.
Normally, your body is able to maintain proper levels of sugar in your blood and inside your cells. However, in people with type 1 diabetes (and sometimes type 2 diabetes), the pancreas has trouble making insulin. This causes too much sugar to accumulate in the blood. Too much sugar can also accumulate in the blood if your body has trouble responding to normal levels of insulin, as is common in type 2 diabetes. Over time, high levels of sugar in the blood can lead to serious health problems in the eyes, feet, hands, kidneys, and heart.
NPH insulin is an intermediate-acting insulin medication. This means that it starts working more quickly than some insulins but more slowly than others, and that it lasts longer than some insulins but shorter than others. In some people, NPH insulin may last as long as 24 hours. NPH insulin is often combined with a rapid-acting or short-acting insulin that can help control the blood sugar spike that occurs just after meals.