The Role of Insulin in Diabetes


Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich

Insulin plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels within our bodies. For individuals with diabetes, understanding insulin is crucial for effectively managing their condition and maintaining eye health.

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. Its primary function is to facilitate the absorption of glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells throughout the body. Once inside the cells, glucose is utilized as an energy source to power various physiological processes. Without sufficient insulin or when the body becomes resistant to its effects, glucose accumulates in the bloodstream.

The Role in Diabetes

Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar levels, is a hallmark of diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes: The pancreas produces little to no insulin, necessitating insulin injections to maintain blood sugar levels within a healthy range.
  • Type 2 diabetes: The body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or becomes resistant to its effects. Medication, and sometimes insulin, is required to manage blood sugar levels effectively.

Administration and Monitoring

Insulin administration typically involves subcutaneous injections or the use of insulin pumps. The dosage and timing of insulin injections vary depending on factors such as meal timing, activity level, and individual insulin sensitivity.

Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is crucial for individuals with diabetes to ensure optimal insulin management. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems and blood glucose meters are valuable tools that enable individuals to track their blood sugar levels throughout the day.



Impact on Vision

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause blood sugar levels to spike, which can result in fluctuating and blurred vision. Consistently high blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels in the eyes over time, leading to diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can cause vision problems and, if left untreated, may even result in blindness. Blood sugar control and regular eye exams are important for preserving vision in individuals with diabetes.

Lifestyle Factors and Insulin Sensitivity

Several lifestyle factors can influence insulin sensitivity, including diet, exercise, stress, and sleep patterns. Consuming a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help improve insulin sensitivity and overall blood sugar control. Regular physical activity, such as aerobic exercise and strength training, can also enhance insulin sensitivity and promote better glucose utilization by cells.


Photo by Jane Trang Doan

It’s essential for individuals with diabetes to work closely with their healthcare provider to determine the most suitable treatment regimen for their needs. Monitoring carbohydrate intake and timing meals and snacks appropriately can also aid in blood sugar management. Remember, diabetes management is a journey, and with the right support and resources, achieving optimal blood sugar control is within reach.

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Ivan Yong

Dr. Ivan Yong is an optometrist with over 12 years of experience in the optical industry. He earned his doctorate from the Southern California College of Optometry and has practiced in multiple settings, including private practice, community health, and ophthalmology. Dr. Yong aims to expand access to affordable eyewear and improve eye health worldwide.