Many people hear ‘diabetes’ and think ‘insulin’. This is definitely the case for type 1 diabetes, but not necessarily for those with type 2 diabetes. For people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the diabetes health care team will initially recommend lifestyle changes, such as a regular exercise program and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
If blood glucose targets are not met with this "lifestyle' plan in 3-6 months, type 2 diabetes treatment may include oral medications. In some situations, if the blood glucose levels are high enough at the time of diagnosis, oral medication (usually metformin) may be started right away. In rare cases, where the blood glucose levels are dangerously high, insulin will be started at the time of diagnosis.
If lifestyle changes and metformin are not enough to help you reach your target blood glucose levels, other medications can be added.These include:
- Sulfonylureas: decreases the amount of glucose released from liver and makes insulin more efficient
- Meglitinides: stimulates the pancreas to produce more insulin after a meal
- Thiazolidinediones: makes body’s insulin more efficient and decreases amount of glucose released from the liver
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors: slows absorption of glucose into the bloodstream after eating
- DPP-4 inhibitors: increases the production and release of insulin from the pancreas after a meal and decreases amount of glucose made by your body
- SGLT2 inhibitors: blocks reabsorption of glucose in the kidney, increases excretion of glucose and lowers glucose levels.
- GLP-1 agonists: increases the production and release of insulin from the pancreas after a meal and decreases the amount of glucose released by the liver
- Insulins: replaces insulin that is normally produced in the body which controls blood glucose
The choice of drug is based on a variety of factors including side effects, cost, and other health conditions you may have. For more information on type 2 diabetes medications, read this article.
Many people living with type 2 diabetes will also be prescribed medication for managing high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.
Your diabetes healthcare team will determine the best treatment plan that will work for you. The important thing is to stick with it so that you can reach your blood glucose targets and reduce your risk of complications.