Insulin Safety Center

Administration of Insulin

Are All Insulins the Same?

No. You may be prescribed one or more types of insulin. If you have Type 2 diabetes, then normally your body makes insulin all day but increases production at mealtimes. Therefore, you may need long-acting insulin and short- or rapid-acting insulin. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist to determine what type you need to use.

Why Is Insulin Available Only as an Injection?

Insulin cannot be taken in tablet form. If we swallowed insulin, the digestive enzymes in our stomach would break it down before reaching our bloodstream. Therefore, at this time, all insulin must be injected into our bodies. It is most commonly given as an injection directly under the skin. Certain types of insulin are injected into the vein, but this must be done by a doctor or nurse.

Insulin can be supplied in different ways. These options include an insulin pump, an insulin pen, an insulin vial (injected with a syringe), a wearable insulin delivery wireless system containing a wearable "pod" and Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM) and an insulin patch.

Types of devices used for administering insulin:

Tips for Injecting Insulin

The location on your body where you inject your insulin can impact the absorption time. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), insulin is absorbed most quickly in the abdomen, followed by the upper arms, and finally in the legs and buttocks. The ADA recommends injecting mealtime insulin in the same area of the body (but not exactly the same place) for each meal. For example:

If you inject into thigh, always use thigh. OK to inject into right or left thigh.
If you inject into arm, always use arm. OK to inject into right or left arm.   
If you inject into belly, always use belly. Inject at least 2 inches away from belly button.     

How Much Insulin Do I Inject?

The decision about what dose you need and the way you will take it is based on many things. There are different way insulin is given: by injecting it with a needle, by injecting it with a pen, by wearing a pump that uses a small needles that stays attached to you. Your doctor will work with you to decide which method is best for you based on the type of insulin you need and the dose you need.

It may take some trial and error before a final type of insulin and dose is determined. A "regimen" is a plan of how your diabetes will be treated. This plan is basically a schedule of the type or types of insulin you will use, how and when you will use them, and at what dose or doses you will take. Different people will have different regimens.

How Is Insulin Dosed?

The measurement used to describe the dose of insulin is referred to in units. The doctor will give you a prescription with the number of units of insulin you need to inject and the time of day to inject.

Whether your insulin is in a vial, pen, or pump, you will notice that more units are in the device than what you will actually need each day. Each device will state how many insulin units are in the entire volume of the device. The liquid volume of insulin is referred to in milliliters (mL). The number of units in each milliliter (mL) is called the concentration. Concentration is the measure of how much of a given substance is mixed with another substance. With some exceptions, the standard concentration for all insulin is 100 units of insulin for every 1 milliliter of volume. This is often referred to as U-100.

The other type of insulin concentration that is available in the United States comes in very high concentrations. This insulin will deliver 500 units in 1 milliliter (mL). It is often called U-500. This concentration is rarely prescribed and should not be used unless discussed thoroughly with your doctor and pharmacist.