Insulin therapy is often an important part of diabetes treatment. It is the cornerstone of treatment for type 1 diabetes. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy is usually not indicated in Type 2 diabetes because typically these individuals already have too much insulin in their bloodstream. Insulin therapy is sometimes needed for type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes as well, but only for the most severe cases.

Banting and Best, the doctor and medical student who discovered insulin, won the Nobel Prize in the late 1920's. They discovered insulin in the pancreatic duct of several dogs, by tying a string around that duct and then isolating the accumulated protein. There is a group of cells called islet cells within the pancreas, which secretes the insulin.

The pancreas is an organ behind the stomach that has many functions in addition to making insulin. There are other hormones produced by different types of cells in the pancreas, i.g. somastotin and glucagon. However, insulin is generally produced in much greater amounts, and that is why the simple Banting and Best's approach succeeded.

Insulin is a protein, like many hormones. Formerly the successful insulin preparations came from cows and then from pigs. Those insulins were isolated, purified, bottled and sold. They worked and still work very well. But in the 80's the pharmaceutical technology greatly advanced, leading the scientists to produce human insulin. Human insulin has a much lower chance of producing an adverse reaction from the body, because it is not a foreign protein, considering all humans have the exact same insulin.


Many of our cells cannot access the calories contained in the glucose very well without the action of insulin. That's what happens when you suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance. The consequence is that you can eat lots of food and actually be in a state of starvation. People with type 1 diabetes, who cannot make insuline at all, and others with type 2 diabetes but cannot make enough insulin, can thus become very ill without insulin shots.

The cells of the body have receptors of insulin which secure the insulin circulating in the blood stream. These receptors attach the insulin to the surface of the cell, activating other receptors which absorb glucose from the blood and pours it inside the cell. People who suffers from a deficiency of insulin must replace it with shots or pumps. That is what happens with people with type 1 diabetes, and sometimes also with type 2 diabetes. However, the latter will overcome this deficiency via other methods of treatment.

Many cells of people with type 2 diabetes respond very scarcely or slowly to the insulin they make themselves, and therefore their cells do not sufficiently absorb the glucose molecules. In most cases, however, type 2 diabetics develop insulin resistance rather than a true insufficient production of insulin.


Sometimes it seems that as soon as a person starts taking insulin, they suffer from diabetes complications. That is why many resist to start undergoing insulin treatment.

The first and most common side effect is low glycemia (blood sugar). That is what happens when you don't have a routine to eat everyday at the same hours or don't take your insulin shots or medication regularly. It is advisable to have a glucagon emergency kit handy, considering this situation is not so unfrequent.

Other side effect of insulin therapy can include swelling, itching or redness at the site of the injection. To avoid these problems, remember to rotate the sites permanently, and also use the fatty areas of the body for the injection application.

Another important side effect, in the long run, is a tendency to gain weight. When insulin therapy is begun there is most likely some weight gain, especially as metabolic control is gained. Nevertheless, do not decrease your insulin dose, trying to keep the pounds off. This could let your blood sugar rise to a dangerous level, and the consequences being worse than the overweight. On the other hand, neither do increase your insulin dose to feel free to overeat. Excess insulin can cause very undesirable consequences, as neuropathy for example.


You should stick with your insulin therapy as prescribed by your doctor. Even when you do not feel well and eventually when you do not eat your usual diabetes diet. Talk with your doctor about adjusting your insulin when you are sick. Insulin therapy can be an effective and safe way of treating your diabetes when it is taken according to a sound diabetes-care plan.

Author's Bio: 

JOSE TALAVERA - Health advisor. Diabetes expert, consultant and author. If you like this article, please visit the web site below for more advice and resources for diabetics: