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The Truth about Insulin and Type 2 Diabetes

Most people associate taking insulin with type 1 diabetes. However, some people with type 2 diabetes also need to take insulin. We talked with Andrea Penney, RN, CDE, Joslin Diabetes Center, to find out the truth about insulin and type 2 diabetes.

Why would someone with type 2 diabetes who has been controlling their diabetes with diet and exercise need to start taking insulin?

There are several reasons why someone would require insulin, even if they hadn’t needed it before.

  • Temporary  insulin usage– Some people need to take insulin for a short amount of time, because of things like pregnancy, surgery, broken bones, cancer, or steroidal medicines (like Prednisone). 
  • Permanent insulin usage - Sometimes the pancreas becomes unable to produce enough insulin. This happens frequently with aging. People can also become insulin resistant due to weight gain or chronic emotional or physical stress. Simply put, pills can no longer control diabetes.

So, it’s not usually “bad” behavior that would cause someone to start insulin?

Correct.   However, non adherence to diet and exercise might result in high blood glucose levels that only insulin can control.

Is insulin dosage different for someone who has type 2 rather than type 1?

The doses will vary; either type may require very little or a lot of medication. It depends on weight, eating habits, exercise levels, existence of other illnesses and level of insulin resistance.

Can someone start taking insulin and then not need to take it anymore?

Absolutely!  But only for those with type 2 diabetes.  Often weight reduction and /or exercise can allow insulin to be stopped. Also, if any of the temporary situations listed above resolve, insulin might be stopped.

Page last updated: September 18, 2019