One of the obvious treatments for Type 1 Diabetes is insulin therapy. For those who may not have read my previous posts, (I’m being silly, of course you have!) insulin is a hormone produced by the body’s beta cells in the pancreas. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when your body’s immune system attacks and destroys these beta cells, leading to the pancreas no longer producing insulin.
Dr. Frederick Banting blessed us all with the gift that is insulin in the Spring of 1921 with the help of his trusty lab assistant, Charles Best. And since then, insulin has remained the top dog in the proper treatment and control of insulin-dependant Diabetes.
Although there are several different brand names and sub-types, insulin can be described within five main categories:
Rapid-Acting: This insulin hits the system quickly and is usually taken in conjunction with a meal or to prevent spikes in blood sugar. That being said, I currently use a rapid-acting insulin (Humalog) in my insulin pump to control basal and bosul rates (Examples: Humalog and NovoLog);
Short-Acting: This insulin is similar to the rapid-acting, but it takes a little more time to kick in and peaks a little bit later. (Examples: Humilin R, Novolin R);
Intermediate-Acting: These insulins start kicking in within about an hour, but will provide basal coverage for about 12 hours in total. They are generally used for overall control, need to be taken twice a day and are used in conjunction with a rapid or short-acting insulin (Examples: Humilin N and Novolin N);
Long-Acting: This type of insulin is generally taken at bedtime and kicks in within an hour. The advantage is that it will last anywhere between 20 to 26 hours, with no peak. So it is normally used to maintain proper blood sugar levels throughout the day. This one would also need to be used in combination with a fast or short-acting insulin as it will not compensate for the carbs you take in at mealtimes (Examples: Lantus and Levemir);
Pre-mixed Insulin: This one is a bit of an issue. Each of these insulins are a combination of short and intermediate-acting insulins and can problematically take effect anywhere within 5 minutes to an hour. This is a significant problem since no two people are alike and no two insulin requirements are alike. This insulin is usually taken twice a day in conjunction with a meal (Examples: Humilin 70/30, Novolin 70/30, Humilin and Humalog 50/50).
There’s another type that is sometimes referred to as Ultra-Long Acting, but it’s basically the same thing as Long-Acting with a 36 hour window instead of 20 to 26 hours. As I look back on this list, I realize that at one point or another I have used every type of insulin on this list with the exception of Levemir and the pre-mixes. Crazy.
The American Diabetes Association webpage has a great article that explains all of these in greater detail: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-basics.html
Although life saving, insulin comes with a range of possible side effects. Much like any other medication, these side effects can range from mild to severe, depending on the person and the type of insulin therapy used.
Some of the most common side effects include, but are not limited to weight fluctuations, erratic blood sugar levels, skin issues from repeated injection sites, heart attack, stroke, eye and kidney complications and in some cases, anxiety or depression.
All of these symptoms can be discussed and dealt with through your family practitioner. The reality is that at the present time, there is no cure for Type-1 Diabetes (contrary to what many conspiracy theorists and naturopaths may believe).
Insulin is not a cure, but simply a treatment that allows those with Diabetes to extend their life expectancy and live full, active lives. As usual, my go-to is to suggest maintaining a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise and proper diet. Monitor your blood sugars regularly and keep fighting the good fight! ☯