Is Insulin Right for You?

If you have type 2 diabetes, you have more options to control blood sugar than ever before.

How Much Insulin Do You Need?

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If you have type 2 diabetes and your doctor thinks it might be a good time to start insulin therapy, there are two important factors to consider: How much insulin do you need to take? When do you need to take it? And both are very personal.

"You can't paint everyone with type 2 diabetes with the same brush," says Mark Feinglos, MD, division chief of endocrinology, metabolism, and nutrition at the Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, N.C. "You need to tailor the regimen to an individual's needs."

A person with type 2 diabetes might start off on half a unit of insulin per kilogram of body weight per day, especially if there is not much known about the nature of his or her diabetes. Still, it is not unusual to need more like 1 unit, says Dr. Feinglos. (One unit per kilogram would be 68 units per day for someone who weighs 150 pounds, which is about 68 kilograms.)

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A lot depends on your specific health situation. People with type 2 diabetes suffer from insulin resistance, a situation in which the body loses its ability to use the hormone properly. Early in the course of the disease, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas respond to insulin resistance by churning out even more of the hormone. Over time, though, insulin production declines.

Taking insulin can help you overcome the body's insulin resistance, though many factors can affect your dosage. If your body is still sensitive to insulin but the pancreas is no longer making much insulin, for example, Dr. Feinglos says that you would require less insulin than someone who is really resistant to insulin.

"But the most important issue is not necessarily how much you need to take," he adds. "Rather, it's the timing of what you to take. Timing is everything."

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Lynne Peeples
Last Updated: October 11, 2010

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