Common medications for diabetes

medications for diabetes

Healthy lifestyle options like meals, exercise and weight control are the basis for type 2 diabetes management. Yet, a person might require medicines to attain target glucose levels. At times, a single medicine works great. In a few other instances, a blend of medicines works better.

List of anti-hyperglycemic drugs is quite long and possibly confusing. Understanding about these medications: their way of intake, their mechanism of action, and what side effects they cause helps. This aids in a better discussion with the concerned doctor.

Diabetes treatment: Reducing blood glucose levels

There are a lot of classes of type 2 DM medications. Every category of drug exerts its action in diverse ways to reduce the levels of blood sugar. A medication may exert its action by:

  • Blocking the glucose formation and its release from the liver
  • Promoting the pancreas to form and liberate more insulin
  • Blocking the reabsorption of sugars in the kidneys
  • Delaying how rapidly food travels the stomach
  • Inhibiting the activity of stomach enzymes responsible for breaking down the carbs
  • Improving the insulin sensitivity of the body cells

Every category of medication carries one or more drugs. Few of these medications are oral, while others are injectables.

Comparison of various diabetes drugs

This is a quick glance to compare common diabetes drugs. More medicines are also coming in the market based on person’s needs and condition. Ask the concerned doctor regarding one’s options and the benefits and downsides of each.

Medications Class Action Benefits Possible side effects
●        Nateglinide

●        Repaglinide

Metaglinides Promote insulin release Quick action ●        Low blood glucose

●        Weight gain

●        Nausea or vomiting

●        Glipizide

●        Glimepiride

●        Glyburide

Sulfonylureas Promote insulin release Low price

Effectual in reducing sugar levels

●        Weight gain

●        Skin allergy

●        Low blood glucose

●        Saxagliptin

●        Sitagliptin

●        Linagliptin

Dipeptidyl-peptidase 4 (DPP-4) inhibitors ●        Promotes insulin release when blood sugar is spiking.

●        Blocks glucose release from the liver.

●        No weight gain.

●        No low blood sugars (unless in combination with sulfonylureas or insulin).

●        Headaches

●        Sore throat

●        Upper RTIs

Metformin Biguanides ●        Blocks the glucose release from the liver.

●        Improves insulin sensitivity.

●        Very effective action.

●        Low price.

●        Supports reasonable weight loss.

●        Nausea

●        Loose stools

●        Very rare: lactic acidosis.

●        Rosiglitazone

●        Pioglitazone

Thiazolidinediones ●        Blocks the glucose release from the liver.

●        Improves insulin sensitivity.

May increase HDL or good cholesterol to some extent. ●        Fractures

●        Heart problems like stroke

●        Weight gain

●        Bladder cancer risk with pioglitazone use

●        Acarbose

●        Miglitol

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors Delay the breakdown of sugars and starches. ●        No weight gain

●        No low blood sugars (unless in combination with sulfonylureas or insulin).

●        Loose stools

●        Acidity

●        Stomach ache

Colesevelam Bile acid sequestrants ●        Reduces cholesterol.

●        Has an uncertain effect in reducing sugar levels when used with diabetes drugs.

Likely safe for individuals experiencing liver problems ●        Constipation

●        Acidity

●        indigestion

●        Canagliflozin

●        Dapagliflozin

●        Empagliflozin

Sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors Inhibits glucose reabsorption by the kidneys. ●        Might support weight loss.

●        Might reduce blood pressure.

●        UTIs

●        Yeast infections

●        Very rare: serious genital infections.


Ways of choosing diabetes drugs

No individual diabetes treatment works best for any person. And, what works for one individual might not work for the other person. A healthcare provider may determine how a particular medicine or multiple medicines fit into one’s overall diabetes care plan. Also, it gives a better understanding of the merits and demerits of particular diabetes medications. You can check your sugar levels with the help of a normal blood sugar levels chart.

What else should a person understand about taking diabetes medications?

Even though a person consumes diabetes medications, he or she still requires a healthy lifestyle. This lifestyle may include a healthy diet, no smoking or alcohol, and regular physical activity. These all constitute an effective diabetes care plan. It is vital to ensure that a person understands his or her diabetes care plan. Discuss with a healthcare provider regarding:

  • target blood glucose levels
  • approach when the glucose levels goo too low or too high
  • effect of diabetes medications on other medications a person is taking
  • any side effects of those diabetes drugs.

NOTE: A person must not alter or stop his or her diabetes drugs on their own. Talking to a provider is must before doing so.

Amy Rey
the authorAmy Rey

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