insulin : definition, types and side effects

What Is Insulin, It’s Working And Side Effects

(Last Updated On: March 4, 2018)

Insulin Definition

Insulin is a hormone; a chemical messenger created in one part of the body to have an action on another.

it is a protein responsible for control blood glucose levels as part of metabolism.

The body produces insulin in the pancreas, and the hormone is secreted by its beta cells, primarily in response to glucose.

The beta cells of the pancreas are perfectly designed “fuel sensors” excited by glucose.

As glucose levels increase in the plasma of the blood, uptake, and metabolism by the pancreas beta cells are increased, resulting in insulin secretion.

It has 2 modes of action on the body – an excitatory one and an inhibitory one:

It stimulates glucose uptake and lipid synthesis
It restricts the division of lipids, proteins, and glycogen, and limits the glucose pathway (gluconeogenesis) and production of ketone bodies (ketogenesis).

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Glucose levels are tightly regulated by insulin so that the rate of glucose production by the liver is balanced by the rate of use by the cells.

In diabetes, hyperglycemia implies that the loss of glucose through the urine is also required to achieve this balance.

In healthy people, the role of insulin is to stay a steady blood glucose level by ensuring sufficient release from the liver.

Low insulin levels cause the release of glucose while more inhibits glucose production by telling the liver to store glucose as glycogen.

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The importance of insulin in maintaining blood glucose levels is mainly because of this impact on liver storage and release.

The uptake of glucose by cells will occur without insulin – the hormone simply accelerates this uptake through recruitment of glucose transporter molecules to the cell membrane.

If there is an absence of insulin in the liver, the liver releases glucose into the bloodstream quicker than tissues will metabolize it.

Treatment for Diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes cannot build insulin because the beta cells in their pancreas are damaged or destroyed.

Therefore, these individuals can need insulin injections to permit their body to process glucose and avoid complications from hyperglycemia.

People with type 2 diabetes do not respond well or are immune to insulin.

They’ll need insulin shots to help them better process sugar and to prevent long-term complications from this disease.

Persons with type 2 diabetes might 1st be treated with oral medications, along with diet and exercise.

Since type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, the longer someone has it, the more probably they’ll need insulin to maintain blood sugar levels.

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Types Of Insulin Used To Treat Diabetes

Rapid-acting : It begins working about 15 minutes after injection and peaks at about 1 hour but remains to work for 2 to 4 hours.

this is usually taken before a meal and in addition to a long-acting insulin.

Short-acting : It begins working about 30 minutes after injection and peaks at about 2 to 3 hours but remains to work for 3 to 6 hours. it is usually given before a meal and in addition to a long-acting insulin.

Intermediate-acting : It begins working about 2 to 4 hours after injection and peaks about 4 to 12 hours later and remains to work for 12-18 hours.

it is usually taken twice a day and in addition to a rapid- or short-acting insulin.

long-acting : It starts working after many hours after injection and works for about 24 hours. If necessary, it is often utilized in combination with rapid- or short-acting insulin.

Insulin can be given by a syringe, injection pen, or an insulin pump that delivers a continuous flow of insulin.

Your doctor can determine which type of insulin is best for you depending on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your blood sugar levels, and your lifestyle.

Side Effects

Hypoglycemia is the most common side effect that will occur during insulin therapy.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

Heart palpitations
numbness around the mouth
Tingling in the fingers
Muscle weakness
Blurred vision
Cold temperature
Excessive yawning
Loss of consciousness

Patients might experience blurred vision if they have had elevated blood sugar levels for a prolonged period of time and then have the elevated levels quickly brought to normal.

this can be because of a shift of fluid within the lens of the eye. Over time, vision returns to normal.

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other side effects that will occur include headaches, skin reactions (redness, swelling, itching or rash at the site of injection), worsening of diabetic retinopathy, changes in the distribution of body fat (lipodystrophy), allergic reactions, sodium retention, and general body swelling.

Insulin causes weight gain and will reduce potassium blood levels.

In addition to these side effects, inhaled insulin (Afrezza) might cause throat pain or irritation and cough and patients should inform their healthcare professional of any unresolved symptoms affecting the lungs for follow up.


The abdomen is the preferred site for injection, however, the sites of injection should be rotated in order to stop the erosion of the fat beneath the skin, a condition referred to as lipodystrophy.

Dosing is adjusted for every patient.

A mixture of short-acting/rapid-acting and intermediate insulin or long-acting insulin are generally used.



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