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Types of insulin

When you have type 2 diabetes, your pancreas still produces insulin. Over time, however, less and less of this hormone may be produced. This leads to the need to rely on insulin injections to control your blood glucose levels. Insulin injections may be added while continuing the use of diabetes pills.

Insulin, because it can improve blood glucose control, often will lead to a better quality of life and prevent or delay the complications and side effects of diabetes.

Insulin is divided into categories which are based on:

  • How fast they start to work
  • When they reach the peak of their action
  • How long they stay in your system
Types of InsulinNames of InsulinHow Fast They StartWhen the Action PeaksHow Long They Last

Rapid Acting



5 - 15 minutes

30 - 90 minutes

1 - 3 hours

3 - 5 hours

Short Acting


1/2 - 1 hour

2 - 4 hours

6 - 8 hours



1 - 2 hours

6 - 10 hours

10 - 16 hours

Long Acting



1 - 2 hours

No peak action

24 - 36 hours

There are also combination insulin mixtures that are premixed, such as:

  • 75/25 mix: 75% NPH (intermediate-acting) and 25% Lispro (rapid-acting)
  • 70/30 mix: 70% NPH and 30% Regular (short-acting)
  • 50/50 mix: 50% NPH and 50% Regular

Each person responds differently to insulin. Your doctor will determine the best type of insulin and the best insulin schedule for you.

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Review Date: 5/13/2010
Reviewed By: Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Previously reviewed by Elizabeth H. Holt, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Yale University, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (6/17/2008).
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