The Basics of Insulin Administration

There are two basic types of insulins. There are long-acting or background insulins, and there are quick or short acting insulins. The two main long-acting insulins are Lantus and Levemir. The most widely used quick acting insulins are Humalog, Novolog, and Apidra.
Insulin can be administered in two basic ways. The first way insulin can get into you is by injection either using vials of insulin and syringes, or with insulin pens and needles. The other main way you can get insulin into you is by insulin pump, also called continuous insulin infusion. Either way, you are accomplishing the same goal of replacing the insulin that the pancreas of someone with type 1 diabetes no longer produces. Neither way is necessarily better than the other, they both have positives and both have negatives. Some people even bounce back and forth between methods of insulin delivery depending on various circumstances.
When injections are used as the primary method of insulin delivery, generally both types of insulins will be used. A long-acting insulin will be injected once or twice a day to act almost like a constant IV drip of insulin since “normal” people always have insulin working in their systems. This is called basal insulin. In addition to this basal insulin, most people who use injections also inject an extra bolus or extra burst of quick acting insulin to go side by side with foods.
Insulin pumps come in two types. The most commonly used type is a tubed pump. With this type of pump, there is a pager-looking device connected to an infusion set by tubing. The infusion set is attached to the body. With any kind of insulin pump, the device is most always attached to the wearer, but with tubed pumps, the pump can be disconnected for showers, baths, swimming, high impact sports, etc. Tubeless pumps or patch pumps have two components. There is the actual pump pod that is attached to the body with adhesive. This part holds the insulin and infuses is as needed. The other component is the PDM, controller, remote, whatever you chose to call it – it does the same thing. This part allows you to program changes to your normal basal pattern, this is also where you program in a bolus for meals or high blood sugars.
Every insulin pump is different. Please refer to the manufacturer’s website or user manual as well as the primary caregiver for instructions on how to make any adjustments to the settings or insulin infusion rates.

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