Although it would be a horrible idea to choose diabetes medication without a doctor’s recommendation, knowing what options there are can help you understand why your endocrinologist has prescribed a particular drug. Modern type 2 diabetes drugs are not limited to insulin, and the variety available is constantly being expanded.
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Why do type 1 and type 2 diabetes may require different medications?
The first thing almost any doctor recommends is following a healthy diet and exercising regularly. However, such an approach, despite definitely being a good way to support your body, may prove to be not enough. In such cases, medications are used.
Although insulin can be used in treatment of both common types of diabetes, type 2 diabetes requires special medications, and here is why.
Type 1 diabetes means the body does not produce insulin which is required for regulation of the level of blood sugar. Unlike type 1, type 2 is characterized by the inability of the body to use insulin the way it should due to insulin resistance, and insulin secretion is disrupted. In both cases, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but since the underlying mechanisms are different, the medications used are different too.
What kinds of diabetes medications are there?
If lifestyle changes do not lead to the expected results, your doctor can help you set treatment goals. These goals are personalized, because in each particular case the goal level of HbA1c may vary. In most people, this level is <7% (except for pregnant women who need special recommendations). If there are other diseases from which the patient suffers, the goal may be about 8%. In those with the disease for whom lifestyle changes prove to be insufficient, metformin is used. It can help reduce HbA1c by the whopping 2%. The drug is used by many patients because it is not expensive, but is effective and safe, with no significant adverse effects.
Some patients are recommended to combine a healthy lifestyle (of which weight management is a crucial part!), metformin and other medications. The majority of these drugs are taken orally, and insulin is used only in cases where other drugs fail to help. One should be careful when using a particular drug to which he or she is used, because some of them may be about to be discontinued soon, like in the case of Tanzeum, for example, which, despite being a safe option, was discontinued because of the limited drug prescribing. The organism gets used to a particular drug, and the transition period is required, should you decide or have to change your pills.
Here are some of the drugs you may be recommended to take:
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. This type of medications includes Precose and Glyset (there may be other versions, but we will mention only the most popular ones) and is aimed at helping the body process starchy food and sugar. As a result, the blood sugar level is lowered.
- Biguanides. The effect of the medications of the kind is complex: it can decrease the amount of sugar the liver produces and the amount of sugar the intestines absorb, promote glucose absorption by muscles, and make the body less insulin-resistant. The medications are Kazano, Invokamet, Synjardy, Glucovance, etc.
- DPP-4 inhibitors. These stimulate the body to keep on producing insulin and reduce the levels of blood sugar. These are Oseni, Nesina, Jenradueto, Onglyza, etc.
- Glucagon-like peptides. These peptides, on which Trulicity, Byetta and Victoza are based, help decrease the amount of glucagon used, slow stomach emptying and increase B-cell growth.
There are other medication types used to treat type 2 diabetes, such as meglitinides, sulfonylureas, thiazolidinediones, etc. They can be combined with medications designed to lower blood pressure, help maintain the health of your heart (sometimes aspirin is used for this purpose), and drugs that can lower the cholesterol level.
Remember that taking drugs without your doctor’s recommendation can be dangerous, and diabetes is a serious disease which should not be treated without the doctor’s prescriptions.