Diabetes medications: Useful tools to manage your type 2 diabetes

Managing type 2 diabetes successfully often involves diabetes medications as well as healthy eating, regular exercise and blood sugar monitoring. If you have type 2 diabetes, there are many new and valuable medications that keep your blood sugar levels normal. Keeping blood sugar in a healthy range can help delay or prevent complications from type 2 diabetes.

Reid Health offers a diabetes management class that helps those with diabetes live full, productive and happy lives. You can also read Reid Health’s tips for healthy living with diabetes, including advice on managing diet, exercise and testing your blood sugar.

a pile of different-colored pillsDiabetes management

Sometimes, even with the healthiest lifestyle, you may need more to keep your blood sugar within the target ranges. This is a decision best made between you and your doctor. Sometimes one medication is enough, but other times, you may need a combination of medications to effectively manage diabetes.

Some people worry that the side effects of the medications are worse than their benefits. Erica Kretchman, D.O., an endocrinologist at Reid Health, explained that the complications of untreated or poorly managed type 2 diabetes are worse than the risks of these medications.

Diabetes medications

There are many new medications available to treat type 2 diabetes. They fall into several different types, or classes, which act on your blood sugar in different ways. Here’s an overview:

  • Metformin – The Mayo Clinic noted that metformin is generally the first option prescribed. This helps your body’s tissues become more sensitive to insulin, so your body improves insulin efficiency while lowering the amount of glucose that your liver makes.
  • Sulfonylureas – This class of medication helps stimulate your pancreas to make more insulin, the Joslin Diabetes Center explained.
  • Thiazolidinediones, pioglitazone (TZDs) – These medications make the body more sensitive to insulin’s effects rather than stimulating your body to make more of it, The Joslin Diabetes Center noted. They also help increase the amount of glucose that enters your muscle cells and lower the amount of glucose your liver makes.
  • Meglitinides – Like sulfonylureas, it helps your body make more insulin, according to the Mayo Clinic. They’re shorter acting in the body.
  • DPP-4 inhibitors – The American Diabetes Association explained that this new class of medication lowers your A1C, or average blood sugar, without causing hypoglycemia because they help prevent the breakdown of GLP-1, which is a compound that occurs naturally in the body. GLP-1 reduces blood glucose in the body. These medications only lower your blood sugar when it’s too high.
  • SGLT2 inhibitors – These are the newest class of diabetes medication and work by preventing your kidneys from reabsorbing sugar in your blood. The sugar is instead excreted in your urine, the American Diabetes Association explained.
  • Insulin – Sometimes, oral medications aren’t enough. Insulin therapy can help patients with type 2 diabetes who aren’t producing enough insulin on their own. According to the Mayo Clinic, your doctor may prescribe several different types of insulin taken as injections.

Keeping your blood sugar at healthy levels is key to preventing the complications of diabetes and allowing you to live a healthy, productive and active life. These diabetes medications may, in conjunction with lifestyle choices, help you manage your type 2 diabetes. Talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.

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