Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.

Unfortunately, insulin has a bad rap. The very mention of it evokes fear and loathing in many people. This is certainly understandable, since no one likes to be poked with needles (though an inhaled insulin, Afrezza, is now available; see the link at the end of this article). Also, there's a certain stigma that many people attach to insulin: who hasn’t heard about Great Aunt Betty or some other relative who was put on insulin “at the end,” just before they were hospitalized, went blind, or even passed away?

As noted in another tip series on glucose-lowering medications, people with type 1 diabetes require insulin to stay alive, so it’s seen as a “necessary evil.” For those with type 2 diabetes, doctors used to consider insulin to be a “last resort” therapy. But not anymore. They’re beginning to start treating many type 2s with insulin sooner, because it is simply the best available medicine.

Insulin is actually simple medicine, complicated by common misperceptions. It is one of only a few medications that is completely natural. That is, this medication is exactly the same substance as the insulin humans already have present in their bodies, circulating in their blood. It very effectively brings your blood glucose (BG) levels down into a “normal,” non-diabetic range, so that you can avoid the long-term damages of diabetes, and also feel better on a regular basis. (Too-high blood glucose over time causes both long-term damage like blindness and kidney disease, and also daily issues like fatigue, irritability, blurred vision, dry mouth, itchy skin, poor wound healing, and more). Taking insulin to keep your BG levels in check will do away will all that.

The only tricky bit about taking insulin is in the dosing: we’re tasked with attempting to mimic the way that a healthy body would dose insulin naturally. If you take too little insulin, your daily BG levels, and your A1c, will be too high; if you take too much, your BG may go too low, causing you to have an unpleasant hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episode.

Other Tips in This Series:

Tip 2: Understanding Long-Acting vs. Fast-Acting Insulin

Tip 3: Avoid the Lows

Tip 4: Keep Your Insulin Safe

Tip 5: Pros and Cons of Symlin, an Insulin Supplement

Inhalable Insulin: Afrezza