top of page

Diving into Different Types of Insulin and How They Work

Insulin plays a pivotal role in managing diabetes, and understanding the different types of insulin and how they work can be empowering for those living with this condition. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. In people with diabetes, the body either can't produce enough insulin (Type 1) or can't effectively use the insulin it produces (Type 2), causing glucose to build up in the bloodstream.

There are several types of insulin, each differing in how quickly they start to work, when they peak, and how long they last. Rapid-acting insulin begins to work about 15 minutes after injection, peaks in about 1 hour, and lasts 2 to 4 hours. Regular or short-acting insulin usually reaches the bloodstream within 30 minutes, peaks 2 to 3 hours after injection, and is effective for roughly 3 to 6 hours. Intermediate-acting insulin generally gets into 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. Ultra long-acting insulin reaches the bloodstream in 6 hours, has no peak time-frame, and lasts approximately 36 hours longer. Understanding these differences is crucial for managing your diabetes effectively. The type of insulin prescribed to you depends on your lifestyle, meal schedule, glucose levels, and how your body responds to insulin. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine the best insulin regimen.

Different insulin types work in various ways. Rapid-acting and short-acting insulins are used to manage blood sugar spikes during meals and to lower high blood glucose levels. Intermediate and long-acting insulins provide a basal level of insulin to help control blood glucose between meals and overnight. Using a combination of insulin types often helps people manage their blood glucose levels more effectively.

However, it's crucial to dispel some common misconceptions about insulin. One is that starting on insulin therapy signifies a failure to manage diabetes. This is not the case; many people with diabetes will require insulin at some point as the disease progresses. Secondly, insulin isn't addictive. The body naturally produces insulin, and insulin therapy is simply replacing or supplementing the body's inadequate insulin. Lastly, while insulin helps control blood glucose, it isn't a cure for diabetes. It's a part of the overall management strategy, which includes diet, exercise, and other lifestyle practices.

To conclude, understanding insulin and its types is a critical aspect of diabetes management. It equips you with the knowledge to take an active role in managing your condition. It's essential to remember that there's no 'one-size-fits-all' approach, and you should always consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice. With the right knowledge and resources, living a healthy life with diabetes is entirely achievable.


  1. American Diabetes Association. (2023) "Insulin Basics." American Diabetes Association.

  2. WebMD Medical Reference. (2022). "Types of Insulin for Diabetes Treatment." WebMD.


bottom of page