How Does Long-Acting Insulin Work to Improve Blood Sugar Levels

Diabetes- a condition that has long been associated with a myriad of different problems. From facing high blood sugar to serious heart conditions, diabetics face an incredibly hard time coming to terms with their illness. While these times are marred by trials, relief comes in the form of insulin.

There are several different types of insulin available for diabetics. More often than not, people have shown a keen preference to use long-acting insulin. Simply put, the purpose of long-acting insulin is to set a stable blood sugar level. But how does long-acting insulin work?

In this article, we have provided an in-depth analysis of this particular type of insulin and its delivery procedures.

Long-Acting Insulin- What it Does

Prescribed for various types of diabetes, long-acting insulin is available in analog and animal forms. As established above, the prime aim of long-acting insulin is to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. This means that upon food entering your body, blood glucose levels will increase at a much lower rate, hence making it easier to manage.

Although the prevalence of electronic pumps to administer insulin has grown two-fold, there are a handful of people who still choose to take the shot through manual injections. As far as long-acting insulin is concerned, it is preferable to inject it into the fatty tissue under the skin, where it will ultimately move to the bloodstream.

Outlined below are a few different ways to deliver long-acting insulin.

The Methods

  • Pump: The most common of them all, this is an electronic device that injects long-acting insulin at timed intervals, via a catheter. Diabetics who choose to opt for the pump avoid the hassle of taking regular injections.
  • Pen: A fairly popular method of administering insulin, pens are infused with insulin-filled Diabetic patients can make proper use of these pens by taking doses that are measured in advance. Additionally, disposable pens with filled insulin are also widely available in the market and can be used for the same purpose.
  • Needle/Syringe: Diabetics can opt for the traditional, old-school method of taking insulin. A vial can be used to draw an effective dose of insulin from a syringe. This insulin can then be used on various sites across the body.
  • Injection Port: This method of insulin administration involves using a tiny tube that is inserted under the skin, from where it enters the tissue. A diabetic can inject insulin via port by a standard syringe or a typical pen.

The Sites

If you’re still wondering how does long-acting insulin works, try considering how and where it is injected. Usually, a person can take insulin under the abdomen, thighs, and upper arms. While all sites are effective, putting an injection to the abdomen is the fastest way for insulin to enter the blood.  You can even inject insulin in the upper arms and thighs, but the process is much slower.

Note: While taking these injections of long-acting insulin, it is imperative to stick to the general injection area. However, do ensure that changing the injection site is also incredibly important as repeating shots in the same place may cause lumps on the skin.

The Dose

Every kind of long-acting insulin has its prescribed dose. The amount of dose will vary on the type of diabetes and backend history of insulin use.  When a diabetic begins his/ her course of insulin, the doctor usually prescribes a much smaller dose. This is only to give the individual ample time to adjust to the dose of extra insulin.

Gradually, the doctor will then keep on increasing the insulin dose to provide a full medicine. There may be a couple of adjustments along the way, ranging from a dose increase to a minor decrease- all depending on a person’s physical activity and overall health. Moreover, factors that affect blood sugar can also lead to a change in insulin dosage, coupled with other adverse side effects such as weight gain, fatigue, and so on.

Thus, to keep blood sugar levels in check, a long-acting insulin regime should not only be worked out but also effectively maintained.

The Process

The American Diabetes Association has affirmed that long-acting insulin differs from fast-acting insulin in three primary ways:

  • The Onset: In comparison with short-acting insulin, long-acting insulin takes much longer to work effectively. While the former begins to lower blood sugar levels within half an hour, the latter takes its own sweet time (nearly 4-5 hours) after injection.
  • The Peak-Time: This refers to the point where the insulin dose is at its strongest point. When talking about short-acting insulin, the peak time lies somewhere between 1-3 hours post-injection. However, long-acting insulin does not have much of a peak time as it primarily works to regulate blood sugar levels at a constant rate throughout the day.
  • The Duration: While comparing long-acting insulin to other forms of insulin, it is important to note that the effect of this type of insulin is much more long-lasting. Rapid-acting insulin can monitor the levels of blood sugar for just a few hours, whereas long-acting insulin stays in the body for much longer, nearly 24 hours or so, depending on the type of medication.

The Side Effects

As with other types of treatment, insulin also has its side effects. So how does long-acting insulin work after being injected?

One of the biggest and most common side effects of taking long-acting insulin is low blood sugar. Also more commonly referred to as hypoglycemia, the symptoms may range from slight dizziness to more severe consequences such as blurred vision or a constant headache. Other possible side effects of taking long-acting insulin may include sudden pain, extreme redness, and swelling of the skin at the injection site.

Many times, insulin is given along with thiazolidinediones. As this medicine group contains diabetic drugs like Actos and Avandia, taking insulin together with these may enhance the risk of heart failure or fluid retention.

Concluding Words

In essence, long-acting insulin is prescribed to diabetics to maintain a stable sugar level.  This type of insulin differs from other kinds in various ways, which are outlined in great depth and detail above. However, if you are a diabetic patient, don’t try to self-medicate and get out of the situation. Always refer to your physician or a qualified medical professional to provide their expertise in the matter. We hope this article helped in clarifying the purpose and use of long-acting insulin.

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