Type 2 Diabetes – Using Your Diabetes Medications Safely and Effectively

There are many different medications available to help manage your blood sugar levels. But, like all medications, they are more effective and safer when they’re used correctly. This means taking them at the right time and taking the right dose. Here is some information to help you use your medications correctly and get the most out of them. First, it’s helpful to understand the different classes of diabetes medications and how and why each type is effective…

1. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors make it so your body doesn’t break down carbohydrates, or breaks them down more slowly. They are starch blockers. The two medications in this group are Precose and Glyset and need to be taken with every meal.

2. Bile Acid Sequestrants (BAS). Welchol and Questrant fall into this group and are often prescribed to lower cholesterol levels and are also effective in lowering blood sugar levels.

3. Biguanides – metformin (Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Fortamet) limit how much glucose your liver produces. Metformin puts a clamp on your liver and prevents it from dumping out too much sugar. Metformin has become the drug of choice for people with Type 2 diabetes since its introduction in 1994.

4. DPP-4 Inhibitors or Insulin Extenders help lower blood sugar levels by extending the action of insulin. They include Januvia, Onglyza, Tradjenta, and Nesina.

5. Sulfonylureas, which include Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL, Micronase, Glynase, Diabeta, and Amaryl, stimulate the cells of your pancreas to produce more of its own natural insulin.

6. Meglitinides blunt the normal spike in blood sugar that occurs after eating. They enter and leave your body quickly. They are taken 5 to 30 minutes before eating, and stop working within hours. Medications include repaglinide (Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix).

7. SGLT2 Inhibitors include canagliflozin (Invokana) and dapagliflozin (Farxiga). They help your kidneys reabsorb glucose.

8. Thiazolidinediones are usually used together with other medications and include rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos). These drugs help make better use of the insulin you have and tells your liver not to release any of its stored glucose.

It’s important to take your diabetes medications at the prescribed time and at the prescribed dose to get the desired effect on your body. Many of these medications need to be timed with your meals. For example, sulfonylureas need to be taken before meals so they can produce insulin to help you use the carbohydrates in the meal. Biguanides should also be taken with food. This helps avoid side effects like diarrhea, upset stomach, and cramps.

Taking the right dose of your medications is important too. Some medications are designed to be started at a lower dosage and gradually increased based on how your body responds. Others need to be matched to your meals, so if you miss a meal you should also skip a dose of the medication. And still, other medications are taken in an exact dosage every time. With all the different dosing directions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist and make sure you understand the directions.

It’s also important to remember taking medications for Type 2 diabetes doesn’t address the root cause of the problem. By eating a healthy diet, exercising, and losing weight, you may be able to manage your diabetes without medications and even reverse the disease.