There are many types of diabetes medication available today, and knowing more about them will help you be in control of your health.
Learn about medicines for diabetes so you’re more prepared for treatment.
Insulin is one of the diabetes medications that everyone is familiar with. Insulin is a hormone your body naturally makes to control your blood sugar levels, but if you have type 1 diabetes, your body no longer makes enough. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not use the insulin properly. Because insulin would be broken down by the body before it did its job if you took it orally, this medicine must be injected. There are four different types of injectable insulin: rapid-acting, regular (also known as short-acting), immediate-acting and long-action. Rapid-acting will work around 15 minutes after it’s injected, peaks at around 60 minutes and keeps working for anywhere from two to four hours. Regular insulin will work around 30 minutes after it’s injected, peaks from two to three hours afterward, and works for around three to six hours. Immediate-acting forms will work about two to four hours later and peak four to 12 hours after that, being effective for around 12 to 18 hours. Finally, long-acting insulin kicks in many hours after injection but lowers your blood glucose levels evenly over about a 24-hour period. You can inject these medicines yourself if you watch your blood sugar levels, and there is also the insulin pump available. The pump delivers short-acting or rapid insulin 24 hours each day via a catheter that’s placed under your skin. You can take an insulin pump off temporarily to perform certain activities, but you’ll need to follow all the directions from your doctor for different types of diabetes medication to ensure your health is protected.
There is oral diabetes medicine, but it is only available for people with type 2 diabetes. Those with type 1 must use diabetes insulin to treat their condition properly. Oral medications are used in combination with dietary changes and exercise, says the Cleveland Clinic. There are different types of diabetes medication that you can take by mouth, and they do work differently. Sulfonylureas work to stimulate cells in your pancreas to make more insulin, and it was among the first medicines for diabetes. Biguanides drop blood sugar levels by reducing how much glucose your liver produces. Meglitinides also stimulate your body to release insulin, while thiazolidinediones help the insulin in your body work more effectively in your fat and muscle while reducing your liver’s production of glucose. A newer class of diabetes drugs known as DPP-4 inhibitors prevents GLP-1, a natural compound in the body that lowers blood sugar, from breaking down. SGLT2 inhibitors work to prevent glucose from being reabsorbed by your kidneys, and alpha-glucosidase inhibitors block starch breakdown, slowing down the rate at which your blood sugar rises after you eat. Finally, bile acid sequestrant is a diabetes medicine that lowers cholesterol levels but also has been shown to lower blood glucose levels, although how this happens is not yet known.
If you want to try oral medications instead of diabetes insulin and your doctor thinks that’s the way to go for now, you may end up with a combination therapy. Since the oral medicines work in different ways to reduce your blood glucose levels, you can use some together. For instance, a sulfonylurea and biguanide can be safely taken together. Taking multiple medications may cost you more, depending on your insurance coverage, and could increase your risk of side effects. However, combining these medicines may boost your blood sugar level control when just one pill doesn’t work the way you need it to. Switching back and forth between different oral types of diabetes medication to another is usually not as effective as combining medications, so work with your doctor to develop a a successful combination plan to treat your condition. If your oral medication doesn’t work for you, be sure to tell your doctor as soon as possible.
While insulin and oral medicines are the front line for diabetes medications, there are other things you can do to safeguard your health, particularly the flu shot. According to the Joslin Diabetes Center, getting the flu shot each season is recommended for diabetics. When you have diabetes, you’re at a higher risk of getting the flu, especially if your condition isn’t well controlled yet. The center says that the vaccine is about 70 to 90 percent effective, and it takes two weeks after you get the shot for your immunity to rise. The shot is a triple vaccine, working against the three strains of flu that are believed will be the biggest problems during that flu season, and the shot lasts for around six months. The flu normally peaks around the first or second month of the year, but it can go all the way until May. Get the flu shot as early as possible, before the season hits its peak if you can. If you do end up with the flu, speak to your doctor immediately.
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