We’re very fortunate these days that a diagnosis with diabetes is no longer a death sentence — due mostly to that healing elixir that mimics a natural substance in our bodies known as insulin.

Injectable “insulin analogs,” as these medicines are called, are life-saving substances that have only been available to patients since the 1920’s.

Whether or not you require insulin at this time, it’s probably in your future as a person with diabetes — therefore it’s important to get to know it, without fear.

This tip series is all about living with insulin (better than you might expect!).

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This is a bonus tip for people with type 1 diabetes. Symlin is an additional glucose-lowering drug prescribed mainly to type 1 diabetics already taking insulin.

A few years ago a company called Amylin Pharmaceuticals introduced the first new “high-impact” medication for type 1 diabetics since the advent of insulin. A cousin to Byetta, this drug is called Symlin, and is taken as a shot – along with insulin – at mealtimes to counteract the BG spikes that diabetics experience after eating (known as high “postprandial” BG levels).

Symlin is actually a replacement for amylin, a hormone present in the pancreas of people without diabetes, that helps the body's metabolism properly regulate itself.

Scientists realized that not only was insulin missing in people with type 1 diabetes, but this hormone as well. The drug is still fairly new on the market, but has been shown to help patients significantly in better managing their BG levels.

So why isn’t everyone with type 1 diabetes taking Symlin? Review the pros and cons below.

Symlin Pros:

  • Reduces or eliminates the BG peaks after meals and snacks that are so troublesome for us diabetics. (Remember, it’s the cumulative effects of these peaks that cause damage to your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and cardiovascular system over time.)

  • Extra help reducing post-meal peaks can be very important for patients who are struggling, or seeking extra-tight control, for example during pregnancy.

  • Allows patients to reduce their insulin doses.
  • Acts as an appetite suppressant, since it slows stomach emptying.

Symlin Cons:

  • It’s known to cause lingering nausea (similar to Byetta, its injectable cousin for treating type 2 diabetes).

  • Requires extra injections! Patients need to take insulin AND Symlin shots before each meal.

  • Balancing doses of Symlin and insulin can be very tricky: the combo can lead to severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), so it’s also not appropriate for anyone who is hypoglycemia unaware.

Other Tips in This Series

Tip 1: Why Insulin's 'Bad Rap' is Undeserved

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

Tip 3: Avoid the Lows

Tip 4: Keep Your Insulin Safe