The main aim of treatment for diabetes is to reduce your risk of developing complications by keeping your blood glucose levels at reasonable levels.
Medicines for diabetes are intended to be used alongside healthy eating and regular exercise. If your doctor gives you medication for diabetes, make sure you understand the right time to take them and any special instructions about timing around meals. For these medications to work correctly, it is important to take them as prescribed. Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you are unsure.
Medicines for type 2 diabetes
There are various medicines that are used to treat type 2 diabetes, such as:
- Sulphonylureas (example, gliclazide, glipizide, glibenclamide)
Metformin works by improving your body's response to the insulin you naturally make. It also decreases the amount of glucose made by your liver and increases the use of glucose by your muscles. Metformin is used in people with type 2 diabetes whose blood glucose levels cannot be lowered with diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes. Read more about metformin.
Sulphonylureas work by making your pancreas produce more insulin. They are prescribed in people with type 2 diabetes whose blood glucose levels cannot be lowered with metformin. There are several tablets in this group. They include:
- Gliclazide (Glizon®, Apo-Gliclazide)
- Glipizide (Minidiab)
- Glibenclamide (Gliben®, Apo-Glibenclamide)
This is an insulin sensitiser which helps reduce insulin resistance in your body. Pioglitazone is prescribed in people with type 2 diabetes whose blood glucose levels cannot be lowered with metformin and sulphonylureas.
Acarbose reduces the rise in blood glucose levels after a meal by delaying the breakdown and absorption of carbohydrates in the stomach. Acarbose is prescribed in people with type 2 diabetes whose blood glucose levels cannot be lowered with metformin and sulphonylureas. Read more about acarbose.
Vildagliptin is used to treat type 2 diabetes, either by itself, or it may be combined with other diabetes medication such as metformin. Vildagliptin works by increasing the amount of insulin produced by your body and reduces the amount of a substance called glucagon being produced by your pancreas. Glucagon causes your liver to produce more glucose , so by reducing the amount of glucagon in your body, this also helps to reduce the levels of glucose in your blood. Read more about vildagliptin.
Insulin injections are used in type 2 diabetes, when blood glucose levels cannot be lowered with metformin, and sulphonylureas. This is usually when the body no longer produces enough insulin. The manufactured insulin is very similar to our natural human insulin. Insulin is given as an injection, under the skin. It cannot be given as tablets because it is destroyed by chemicals in the stomach. There are various different types of insulin. Read more about insulin.
Questions to ask about your diabetes medicines
Taking your diabetes medicines properly is an important part of your diabetes care. It is important to understand what your medicines are for and how to take them. Here are some questions that you might ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse:
- What is the name of my medicine and what does it do?
- What is the strength (for example, how many milligrams)?
- When should I expect the medicine to start working, and how will I know if it is?
- How much should I take for each dose?
- At what times of day should I take my medicine?
- Am I supposed to take it with something to eat?
- What should I do if I forget to take a dose?
- Are there any side effects to watch out for?
- Can my diabetes medicine cause low blood glucose?
- What should I do if my blood glucose is too low?
- What should I do if I feel better and don't want to finish taking all of it?
- Is it okay to take with other medicines, alcohol or natural remedies?
- What should I do if it doesn't seem to work?