There are many diabetes medications available that your doctor might prescribe. It's best for you to be aware of all the possible drug treatments for diabetes, even if you will not be taking all of them. Education can help make adjusting to taking diabetes medication seem easier, and your medication needs may change over time.
Here are four of the most common diabetes medications:
If you have just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you'll likely begin taking metformin. It is a medication that makes the tissues of your body more sensitive to insulin, which can help you use your body’s insulin more effectively. However, metformin isn't a miracle drug that lowers blood sugar all by itself. You'll likely also need to make serious lifestyle changes—like losing weight and exercising more—to help your body achieve ideal blood glucose levels.
If metformin and these changes don't get your blood sugar to the goal that you and your doctor have set, you may be prescribed additional medicine.
Sulfonylureas and meglitinides
Sulfonylureas and meglitinides both help the body secrete more insulin. You may see brand names including DiaBeta, Glynase, Glucotrol, Amaryl, Prandin and Starlix. Sulfonylureas may cause low blood sugar and weight gain. These risks also come with meglitinides, but they are lesser ones because this class of drugs stays in the body for less time.
These new medications prevent your kidneys from reabsorbing whatever sugar is in your blood, which may help prevent diabetes complications.
Depending on how your type 2 diabetes is progressing, your doctor may eventually recommend you begin insulin therapy. Contrary to popular perception, this isn't the first line of treatment, except in people with type 1 diabetes, who cannot produce insulin in their bodies. Insulin comes in many types, but most are injectables. Some may be more suitable for you to use during the day, while others are better suited for nighttime use.
You may begin insulin therapy with only one long-lasting insulin shot each day. If you have concerns or questions about how to inject yourself with insulin, ask your doctor or diabetes educator for tips or a demonstration.
Remember: while these are the most common medications, your doctor may decide to prescribe something else. Be sure he or she gives you the information you need to handle your medication properly. Knowing is half the battle.