Insulin therapy for type 2 diabetes

For some people living with type 2 diabetes the pancreas makes very little insulin by itself. In this case, your doctor may recommend that you start insulin treatment to help your body absorb glucose. There are different insulin treatment options, and your routine will be tailored to your specific needs.

Insulin types differ in three ways

  • How quickly they work (onset of action)
  • When they have the greatest effect (time of peak action)
  • How long they work (duration of action)


It's important to be aware that there are different types of insulin. Your treatment may need to be adjusted over time to achieve the best possible blood glucose control.

Long-acting insulin

Most people who move on to insulin therapy start with a long-acting insulin. These are often called basal or 'background' insulins because they keep a low, consistent level of insulin in your blood over an extended time.

Long-acting insulins work to keep your blood glucose levels steady throughout the entire day – including between meals and when you sleep. Because of their long duration of action, they are usually taken only once or twice daily.

Mealtime insulin

Your blood glucose rises rapidly when you eat a meal. Sometimes long-acting insulin isn't enough to control these 'spikes', and you may need to add mealtime insulin to keep your glucose levels under control.

Mealtime insulin is a rapid- or fast-acting insulin that you inject just before you eat to manage blood glucose spikes. It is taken in addition to a long-acting insulin, and together they are sometimes called 'basal-bolus insulin'.

How basal-bolus treatment works throughout the day

mealtime insulin

You may start with just one mealtime insulin injection per day, usually with your main meal. Your doctor will advise you to add more mealtime injections if necessary.

How do I take insulin?

Insulin is an injectable medicine made up of insulin hormone suspended in a solution. Unfortunately, insulin cannot be taken as a tablet – it would be destroyed by your digestive system before it could start working.

Most people with type 2 diabetes use an injection pen to take insulin. Injection pens are designed to be discreet, easy to use, and virtually painless. There is a broad range available to suit different needs, including pre-filled and refillable pens. Some even have a hidden needle.

Your healthcare professional will be able to recommend the pen and injection schedule that best suits your lifestyle, and will show you how to administer injections yourself.

Explore our pens and find support for self-injecting

What are insulin pumps?

Insulin pumps

Insulin pumps are small electronic devices that imitate the function of your pancreas by delivering doses of insulin as required throughout the day.

Pumps inject insulin through a small tube inserted under your skin. Wearing a pump removes the need for multiple injections, although they do need to be placed at a new site on the body every few days to avoid infection.

Learn all about insulin pumps

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