Insulin therapy may be a crucial part of your diabetes care. While it's more often associated with type 1 diabetes, where the body produces little or no insulin, there are also many individuals with type 2 diabetes who rely on insulin to help them manage symptoms as well.

If you’re new to insulin therapy, you may wonder what to expect. Here are some of the essential goals and expectations to anticipate, as well as how to achieve them.

Managing blood sugar levels

The most important goal of insulin therapy is to make sure your blood sugar (glucose) levels are as normal as possible. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that glucose levels before a meal should be between 80 and 130 mg/dl and less than 180 mg/dl a few hours after finishing a meal. Knowing how much insulin you need and when to take it will help you achieve these levels. Start with recommendations from your doctor and make adjustments based on your blood glucose tests. Test more often until you identify your body’s patterns. That may include testing before and after meals as well as other times of the day. Again, rely on your doctor for advice on when and how often to test.

Blood glucose levels should be between 80 and 130 mg/dl before meals.

Best insulin delivery for you

Another key step of insulin therapy is to determine the best way to deliver insulin into your body. While using a syringe is the most common method, there are other options. Insulin pens may more convenient. They come with prefilled cartridges and can be easier to use than syringes. Insulin pumps are also used to deliver insulin into the body around the clock.

Develop your routine

Successful insulin therapy results from developing a habit of providing yourself with insulin. The routine will eventually become automatic.

In addition to figuring out what times of day to inject yourself with insulin, you'll also want to consistently insert the needle in the same part of your body. The place where you're injecting yourself can affect how the insulin works. The ADA says that insulin shots work fastest when injected into the abdomen, whereas the upper body or thighs might be a better location if you're using slower-releasing insulin. You don't want to inject insulin at exactly the same place every time, but you should insert the syringe near the same spot. This will help provide a predictable response to a given dose.

Lifestyle factors

Of course, one of the more overlooked aspects to effective insulin therapy is what you do besides daily injections. The more active your lifestyle is and the healthier your diet becomes, the better controlled your diabetes is likely to be. Know that activity levels can affect your insulin needs just as diet does. Learn how your body’s glucose levels are affected by different levels of exercise so you can adjust your insulin doses accordingly.

For more on insulin:

A Better Basal Insulin?
Keep Your Insulin Safe
Know Your Insulin Options