Taking medications for diabetes are only one aspect of the treatment. To be successful in controlling your diabetes, you need to seriously consider the other aspects of the treatment such as diet and exercise.
The purpose of this article is to give you an idea of the type of medications available, how they work and side effects. Always consult your doctor before embarking on a course of medications.
Type-1 diabetes is due to failure of the beta cells in the pancreas and the treatment is to replace insulin. Type-2 diabetes is caused by many factors such as inadequate insulin, abnormal increase in glucose production by the liver, cells becoming insulin resistant and excess calorie intake. Type-2 medications work on one or more of the factors.
Medications for Type 2 Diabetes
Let’s start with oral medication for type 2 diabetes.
The first type of oral medications for type 2 diabetes work to increase insulin production by binding to the beta cells in the pancreas. The released insulin then lowers glucose levels. They go by names such as Glyburide, Glipizide, Glimepiride and Gliclazide (Diamicron).
The main side effects of these medications is that they can cause hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) if the person takes the medication without consuming enough food. They also tend to gain some weight with time.
The second type of medication works on reducing glucose production in the liver. The generic drug name is Metformin and popular brand is Glucophage. Metformin reduces appetite and promote weight loss and can lower triglycerides.
The main side effects are nausea and occasional diarrhea. Though rare, Metformin can cause a serious medical condition called lactic adidosis. People with liver failure, kidney failure or severe heart failure are at risk of these condition and they should not take this medicine.
The third type of medication works by partially blocking the enzymes in the small bowel walls that break down starches, so that the glucose rise as a result of starchy food is delayed the peak lowered. They are called glucosidase inhibitors and they include Acarbose and Miglitol.
The main side effects are gas or flatulence and abdominal discomfort. The effects of these drugs on glucose level is minimal its use is somewhat limited. People with kidney failure should not take this drug.
The fourth type of medication works by making the tissues more sensitive to insulin. They include Rosiglitazone and Pioglitazone. In addition to their glucose lowering effect they also reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and raise HDL or good cholesterol.
The main side effects of these medications are weight gain and fluid retention. Weight gains tend to be around the abdomen while fluid retention can cause ankle swelling. These drugs should not be used by those with who are at risk with heart failure.
There are other types of medication but the ones listed above are the more popular ones.
Medications for Type 1 Diabetes
For type-1 diabetic the treatment is insulin replacement. There are two types of insulin available for treating people with type-1 diabetes. The first type is fast-acting insulin which acts on glucose level rise due to the intake of food. The second is long-acting insulin that provides the background insulin needed.
These are usually delivered by injections or through an insulin pump.
Fast-acting insulin includes Regular Insulin, Insulin Lispro (Humalog), Insulin Aspart (Novolog) and Insulin Glusiline (Apidra). Out of the four, Lispro, Aspart and Glusiline are more effective and popular.
Long acting insulin includes NPH insulin, Insulin Glargine and Insulin Detemir. Regular insulin is mixed with fish protein to form a crystal that dissolves slowly when injected subcutaneously. The effect last for hours depending on the dose.
Supplements and Herbs
In addition to medications, supplements and herbs are believed to assist in lowering blood glucose. They include cinnamon, chromium, selenium, American ginseng, ginkgo biloba, fenugreek, a traditional ayurvedic herb called gymnema sylvestre and a common tropical vegetable called bitter melon (also known as balsam pear).
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, you should always seek advice from your doctor before taking any medications.