Last Modified: 2:11pm 30/04/2021

Different Types of Insulin


Everyone with type 1 diabetes, and some people with type 2 diabetes, need to take insulin using an insulin pen or an insulin pump.

There are five different types of insulin which all work in slightly different ways to help manage diabetes.

Rapid-acting insulin:

Sometimes known as fast-acting insulin, it’s taken shortly before meals. It works quickly, and it’s usually taken alongside intermediate-acting insulin or long-acting insulin. The dose depends on how many carbohydrates are eaten.

Short-acting insulin:

This is similar to rapid-acting insulin but works slightly slower. Because of this, it needs to be taken about 25 minutes before eating.

Mixed insulin:

This is a combination of short- or rapid-acting insulin. It’s taken twice a day before breakfast and dinner.

Intermediate-acting insulin:

Also known as background insulin or basal insulin. This means it works throughout the day. It’s taken once or twice a day.

Long-acting insulin: Another type of background or basal insulin, it is slower acting than intermediate insulin but very similar in how the body processes it. It’s usually taken once a day.


Insulin pens

Pen injectors are relatively easy to use, and there’s a whole range to suit different insulin. There are two main types: a disposable pen that already contains the insulin, which you throw away once empty; and a reusable pen with replaceable insulin cartridges.


Insulin pumps

An insulin pump gives people the insulin they need throughout the day and night. A pump can be an excellent alternative to injecting with an insulin pen and give people more flexibility when managing their diabetes.

There are two types of insulin pumps: a tethered pump and a patch pump. Both are attached to the body by a tiny tube called a cannula, which goes just under the skin. The cannula needs to be changed every two or three days and moved to a different place every time.

Tethered pumps: This is attached to the body by another small tube that connects to the cannula. The pump itself usually houses all

the controls and can be carried on a belt, in a pocket, or a body band worn under clothing if people don’t want it on show.

Patch pumps: These attach directly onto the body where the cannula is placed. Popular choices include legs, arms, or stomach. There’s no extra tubing, which means the pump sits directly onto the skin and is operated by a remote. Patch pumps are temporary, so the whole device needs to be changed when the pump sends an alert, not just the infusion set and location.

For further information click on link diabetes-uk-meds-and-kit-2020  and go to page 24 and 25.