Making the Switch: From Oral Medications to Insulin


People with Type 2 diabetes do not always require insulin, as their bodies produce some and medications coupled with a healthy lifestyle can allow them to function optimally and achieve good glucose levels with what they already have. That said, many with T2D may become unable to achieve their glycemic target on their own and this is when doctors often suggest adding insulin injections to their diabetes management repertoire.

According to the CDC, of all adults with diabetes, only 14% use insulin, while 13% use insulin and oral medication in tandem to treat their diabetes. But because diabetes is a progressive disease, many people with Type 2 ultimately find that they need to implement insulin injections into their daily routine to keep to meet the standard A1C goal.

There has been a cruel myth often perpetuated that those living with T2D who make the switch to insulin have failed in some way to overcome or maintain their diabetes. The reality is that as diabetes progresses, for both Type 2 and Type 1, changes always need to be made to keep treatment current. This is why most T2Ds find themselves utilizing insulin injections, especially years into their condition. Some with T2D taking insulin also may only need injections temporarily – it truly depends on the situation surrounding the individual.

Making the switch to insulin involves taking steps to ensure a smooth transition. Starting with a single injection or with three injections of short-acting insulin before meals may prove effective. Some with T2D begin with a single nighttime injection of intermediate-acting insulin so that their blood sugar levels are stable in the morning after having fasted all night. For many, it makes sense to continue oral medications and implement a single injection of long-acting insulin to control levels. There a number of possible combinations and the appropriate course of action for an individual with T2D needs to be determined with the help of a healthcare professional.

If someone with Type 2 diabetes is already able to control their glucose levels well with the help of oral medications alone, there is probably no need to make the switch to insulin. Talking with a doctor is the best way to figure out if a transition to insulin is right.