Depending on your overall health and how elevated your glucose levels are, you may be given a chance to lower your blood sugar level with lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise before you start medication.

The day-to-day management of blood sugar levels can be complicated. You may need to take insulin as well as other medications to treat complications from diabetes.  Even with medication, you'll still need to monitor your glucose levels, make wise food choices and get regular exercise.

Insulin therapy
The main job of insulin is to keep the level of sugar in the bloodstream within a normal range. If you have type 1 diabetes, insulin therapy replaces the insulin your body is unable to produce. Insulin therapy is sometimes needed for type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes when other therapies have failed at keeping blood glucose levels within the desired range.

Insulin must be injected directly into your bloodstream. Your doctor can help you decide which way of taking insulin is best for you. Riverside offers classes to help you learn to give yourself insulin via injections or an insulin pump. If you have questions about how to administer your insulin or want to sign up for a Riverside class, call Riverside Nurse at 757-595-6363.

Taking injections
You'll give yourself shots using a needle and syringe. Some people use an insulin pen, which looks like a pen but has a needle for its point.

Using an insulin pump
An insulin pump is a small machine about the size of a cell phone, worn outside of your body on a belt or in a pocket or pouch. The pump connects to a small plastic tube and a very small needle. The needle is inserted under the skin and stays in for several days. Insulin is pumped from the machine through the tube into your body. A pump can make managing your diabetes easier.

It can be programmed to dispense specific amounts of insulin automatically. It can also be adjusted to deliver more or less insulin depending on meals, activity level and blood sugar level.

Using an insulin jet injector
The jet injector, which looks like a large pen, sends a fine spray of insulin through the skin with high-pressure air instead of a needle.

Your plan for taking insulin will depend on your daily routine and your type of insulin. Some people with diabetes who use insulin need to take it two, three, or four times a day to reach their blood glucose targets. Others can take a single shot. Your doctor or diabetes educator will help you learn how and when to give yourself insulin.

There are several types of insulin that work at different speeds. Most people need two or more types of insulin to reach their target glucose levels.


  • Diabetes treatment: Using insulin to manage your blood sugar
  • Tips for injecting insulin and preventing problems
  • Insulin and weight gain: Keep the pounds off
  • Intensive insulin therapy: Achieving tight blood sugar control
  • Intensive insulin therapy: Too risky for type 2 diabetes?
  • Slide show: Insulin pump and other common insulin delivery devices