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Diabetes in Adults

Medication For Diabetes

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 17:56

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

There are now several medications available to treat diabetes. Most are taken in pill form. Different diabetes pills do different things:

  • Help the pancreas make more insulin
  • Help the body's cells use insulin more efficiently
  • Work with both the pancreas and the cells to control blood sugar levels
  • Slows down the digestion of carbohydrates in the food we eat causing the rise of glucose in the blood following a meal to be less.

In order to help your diabetes medication work well, remember these points:

  • You may start off with one type of medication and change or add others later.
  • Keep taking your medication as directed by your doctor even if you feel better.
  • Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you experience side effects or a change in your condition.

Side Effects

Diabetes medications may cause side effects, including

  • Stomach upset
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Metallic tast
  • Less appetite

These side effects usually go away on their own in a week or two. If they don't go away, tell your doctor. He or she can probably switch you to a different medication or change your dose.

There's plenty you can do to help diabetes medication work correctly:

  • Follow the directions for taking medication.
  • Follow your treatment team's advice about when to eat meals and what to eat to help control your blood sugar.
  • Carry emergency snacks in case the medication causes your blood sugar to drop too low. Low blood sugar can be dangerous.
  • Get regular liver tests if required for your type of medication.

How-To Information:

Know Your Medication

Whenever you get a new prescription from the doctor, make sure you know all the details about your medication. Copy this questionnaire and bring it with you to your doctor's appointment. Be sure you understand the answers to all these questions before you leave the doctor's office

Medication Questions

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • When should I take it?
  • Should I take it before, with, or after meals?
  • Are there any other special directions for taking this medication?
  • If I forget a dose, should I take it later, or skip it?
  • What side effects are common with this medication?
  • What side effects should I tell the doctor about?
  • Are there any blood tests or other checks I need to have while taking this medication?

Types Of Medication

There are several types of medication commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes:

  • Sulfonylureas Stimulate your pancreas to make more insulin.
  • Biguanides Decrease the amount of glucose made by your liver.
  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors Slow the absorption of the starches you eat.
  • Thiazolidinediones Make you more sensitive to insulin.
  • Meglitinides Stimulate your pancreas to make more insulin.
  • D-phenylalanine Help your pancreas make more insulin quickly.
  • Combination oral medicines. A combination of different types of pills.

How-To Information:

Remembering Your Pills

It's very important to take your diabetes pills regularly, even if you feel better.

  • Buy a pill organizer with a compartment for every day of the week. Load it up once a week. (Include any other pills you are taking regularly, such as pills to control cholesterol or blood pressure.)
  • Keep your pills where you can see them easily, for example, on your bedside table or near where you eat.
  • Ask a family member to remind you about your pills.
  • When traveling, put a note in your luggage reminding you to take the pills. Carry a spare prescription, in case you lose the pills. Be sure to locate a pharmacy near where you are staying in case you have a medication question or need to fill a prescription.
  • Fill prescriptions well before you run out of medicine, especially if you'll be going on vacation or around the holidays.
  • If you have side effects, talk to your doctor. But don't stop taking the pills without your doctor's permission.


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