Oral diabetes medications work in different ways and can have slightly different effects on different individuals. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. This is one of the reasons why adjusting diabetes medications is commonly done by your diabetes healthcare professional. The overall goal is to find the most effective prescription for diabetes management.
Depending on how blood glucose levels react to the medications, you may be asked to:
- Take more or less of the same oral medication
- Add another medication
- Switch to a different medication
- Start taking insulin or another injectable drug
It’s also a reality that some diabetes medications or drug combinations carry side-effects for certain individuals. Many people have to take more than one medication and may experience side-effects at some point.
Although some drugs carry side-effects when first taken, these shouldn’t persist. If the side-effects continue, an alternative medication or different combination will be tried. Side-effects can range from physical discomfort to barriers such as weight gain.
Some common side-effects can be uncomfortable, such as nausea or diarrhea. Others may make it difficult to maintain diabetes management goals. For example, weight maintenance may be a challenge if the side-effects include weight gain. See our article Medication side-effects: know the secret signs.
Blood glucose management
The primary goal of diabetes management is to maintain blood glucose levels within targets. Medications can play an important role in helping to achieve this, alongside a healthy living plan.
Healthy eating and regular physical activity have a positive impact on blood glucose levels. If a significant shift is made in lifestyle habits, this may reduce the amount or type of medication that is required.
Changes over time
Even when an individual is following a healthy living plan, the diabetes management may not be as effective as time passes. Diabetes is a progressive condition, and over the years you may require more help to manage your blood glucose levels.
This extra help may come in the form of increased medication amounts or a switch to a different combination of drugs. If this is not effective, insulin treatment may be recommended.
Many people think that insulin is only for type 1 diabetes, but it is often prescribed for hard-to-manage type 2 diabetes after a period of time or can even be prescribed when you are diagnosed. See our article Does insulin mean we’ve failed?
If you have questions about medications, it may be helpful to book a consultation with the pharmacist.