Find out about diabetes and insulin

If you are living with diabetes, you are not alone—millions of people in the United States have been diagnosed. Diabetes cannot yet be cured, but it can be managed. Taking insulin may be a necessary part of your diabetes treatment plan.

What is diabetes?

When you eat, some of your food is broken down into a type of sugar (also called “glucose”). This sugar travels in your blood to fat and muscle cells in your body, where it is needed for energy. A hormone made in the pancreas, called insulin, helps sugar move from your blood into your cells.

Diabetes is a disorder in which the body has trouble with insulin. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugar. High blood sugar can lead to other health problems.

Type one diabetes (T1D)

  • An autoimmune disorder (your body makes little or no insulin because of an overactive immune system)
  • 5%-10% of people (adults and children) with diabetes have type 1
  • Treatments must include basal-bolus insulin therapy

Type two diabetes (T2D)

  • A metabolic disorder (your body prevents the insulin it makes from working correctly and/or may not make enough insulin)
  • 90%-95% of people (adults and children) with diabetes have type 2
  • Treatments may include insulin


Depending on what type of diabetes you have, your health care provider will work with you to develop a treatment plan that works best for you.

What you need to know about insulin

Depending on what type of diabetes you have and how much your diabetes has progressed, you may need to add insulin to your treatment plan. You can take insulin by injection (with a pen or vial and syringe), inhalation, or with an infusion pump.

Different kinds of insulin work for different lengths of time:

Long-acting insulin icon

Long-acting (basal) insulin lowers blood sugar throughout the day, and may be taken to manage blood sugar for many hours and overnight.

Rapid-acting insulin icon

Rapid-acting (bolus) insulin, also called mealtime insulin, helps control your blood sugar when taken as prescribed.

How do these 2 insulins work together?

Bodies usually release insulin:

  • In a steady “basal” amount throughout the day and night
  • In “bolus” bursts to control blood sugar spikes when you eat

Basal-bolus therapy is the combination of long-acting insulin with rapid-acting insulin, which more closely mimics how the body’s natural insulin works throughout the day.

Women with diabetes cooking a healthy meal
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