Diabetes type 1

Finding the right insulin regimen for you

In a non-diabetic person insulin is released from the pancreas to help control his or her blood glucose level. For diabetic people, taking insulin several times a day via injections or a pump aims to imitate the normal pattern of insulin production from the pancreas as closely as possible.

What are the different types of insulin?

The insulin used by Type 1 diabetics is made in one of three ways:

  • Animal - made from animal sources like pork or beef
  • Human - not from humans but made in a lab to match human insulin)
  • Analogue - made in a lab to have the same effect as insulin, but designed to work at different speeds

These days it is more common to use human or analogue insulins.

There are many types of insulin available but their basic difference is in how quickly they take effect and how often they need to be injected.

Here young people talk about the types of insulin they have used, the one they are currently using and why some have changed their insulin routine. 

Some young people preferred not to change their current insulin routine because they were worried it might mean increasing the number of injections per day. Others described how, since changing their routine, they no longer need to eat snacks between meals meaning that their lives had become much easier.

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Changing your insulin regime

Most of the young people we talked to had changed their insulin routine one or more times since they'd first been diagnosed. Many did so because they'd found it difficult to control their diabetes during their teen years. They described how their control worsened as they reached puberty due to hormonal changes. They experienced more frequent and unexplained hypos (low blood sugar) and/or highs. As teenagers, people wanted to find an insulin routine which allowed them to be more flexible and independent. (See also 'Hypos', 'Highs'; 'Diet and diabetes' and 'Managing diabetes as a teenager'.)

Some young people said that their previous insulin regime had been inflexible and too complicated. Many young people said that they didn't like regimes where they had to eat snacks between meals whether they felt hungry or not although this regime is unusual now. 
Some young people had experienced problems with some types of insulin routine. One young woman, diagnosed as a child, became irritable and very tired when starting to use a new insulin routine. Doctors kept trying various types of routine until they found one that suited her and her lifestyle. Another young woman who'd been on the same insulin routine for thirteen years was advised to change to another type of insulin to allow for a more flexible routine. One week later she became very ill and was admitted into hospital with DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). She had several episodes of DKA which didn't stop until after she was put back onto her original type of insulin but with more frequent injections. It's very important to closely monitor blood glucose levels - doing the 'finger pricking' - as instructed by the consultant or nurse, especially when changing insulin routines.
Flexible insulin regimen

Many of the young people we talked to said that basal/bolus regime gave them flexibility, independence and control. They said that they didn't have to wait before having a meal; they can inject and eat straightaway. However they also said that knowing more about carbohydrate counting helped (see also 'Diet and diabetes'). One young man felt a bit upset because he couldn't see any noticeable improvements at the start of his new regimen. A young woman said that the new-found freedom made her less cautious and she started to eat more chocolate than usual. Young people really appreciated the fact that their new regime meant that they were now able to have 'a lie in' rather than having to wake up early at weekends just to do their insulin injection.

Fixed insulin regimen

Some young people found that more fixed routine helps them to manage their diabetes better. One young man recommended doing a set routine when you are first diagnosed because it would be less scary than 'going it alone'. A young woman who used to have a insulin pump changed back to a fixed insulin routine and doesn't see the need to change to a four injections a day regimen.

Finding the right insulin routine depends on being aware of what your eating patterns are likely to be and checking the results with daily glucose tests, especially when you unexpectedly eat more or less than usual. (See also 'Diet and diabetes', 'Doing blood glucose tests' and 'Managing diabetes as a teenager'.)

Last reviewed December 2017.
Last updated December 2017.



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