Intensive insulin therapy: Tight blood sugar control

Intensive insulin therapy can help prevent long-term diabetes complications. Consider the benefits — and understand the commitment.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you have type 1 diabetes — and in some cases if you have type 2 diabetes — intensive insulin therapy may be the key to long-term health.

This aggressive therapy isn't easy, but the benefits are real. Find out how intensive insulin therapy can help you achieve desired blood sugar control and what intensive insulin therapy requires of you. Then you and your health care team can decide if intensive insulin therapy is the best approach for you.

What is intensive insulin therapy?

Intensive insulin therapy is an aggressive treatment approach designed to control your blood sugar levels. Intensive insulin therapy requires close monitoring of blood sugar levels and multiple doses of insulin.

Fortunately, research is ongoing into new methods of blood sugar monitoring and insulin delivery that may make it easier and reduce the risk of intensive insulin therapy. One such method is a closed-loop insulin delivery system that combines continuous blood sugar monitoring with insulin pump delivery.

If you choose to try intensive insulin therapy, you'll work with your doctor to set various goals. Ideally, this means:

  • Blood sugar level before meals: 70 to 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.9 to 7.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
  • Blood sugar level two hours after meals: less than 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L)
  • Hemoglobin A1C (glycated hemoglobin, an indicator of your blood sugar control for the past few months): less than 7 percent

What are the benefits of intensive insulin therapy?

Intensive insulin therapy can prevent or slow the progression of long-term diabetes complications.

Several studies indicate that intensive insulin therapy can:

  • Reduce the risk of eye damage by more than 75 percent
  • Reduce the risk of nerve damage by 60 percent
  • Prevent or slow the progression of kidney disease by 50 percent

And there's more good news. Intensive insulin therapy can boost your energy and help you feel better in general.

Feb. 11, 2014 See more In-depth