What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood.
What are the treatments for diabetes?
Treatments for diabetes depend on the type. Common treatments include a diabetic meal plan, regular physical activity, and medicines. Some less common treatments are weight loss surgery for either type and an artificial pancreas or pancreatic islet transplantation for some people with type 1 diabetes.
Who needs diabetes medicines?
People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin to control their blood sugar.
Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar with healthy food choices and physical activity. But for others, a diabetic meal plan and physical activity are not enough. They need to take diabetes medicines.
The kind of medicine you take depends on your type of diabetes, daily schedule, medicine costs, and other health conditions.
What are the types of medicines for type 1 diabetes?
If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin because your body no longer makes it. Different types of insulin start to work at different speeds, and the effects of each last a different length of time. You may need to use more than one type.
You can take insulin several different ways. The most common are with a needle and syringe, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump. If you use a needle and syringe or a pen, you have to take insulin several times during the day, including with meals. An insulin pump gives you small, steady doses throughout the day. Less common ways to take insulin include Inhalers, injection ports, and jet injectors.
In rare cases, taking insulin alone might not be enough to manage your blood sugar. Then you would need to take another diabetes medicine.
What are the types of medicines for type 2 diabetes?
There are several different medicines for type 2 diabetes. Each works in a different way. Many diabetes medicines are pills. There are also medicines that you inject under your skin, such as insulin.
Over time, you may need more than one diabetes medicine to manage your blood sugar. You might add another diabetes medicine or switch to a combination medicine. A combination medicine is a pill than contains more than one type of diabetes medicine. Some people with type 2 diabetes take both pills and insulin.
Even if you don't usually take insulin, you may need it at special times, such as during pregnancy or if you are in the hospital.
What else should I know about taking medicines for diabetes?
Even if you take medicines for diabetes, you still need to eat a healthy diet and do regular physical activity. These will help you manage your diabetes.
It is important to make sure that you understand your diabetes treatment plan. Talk to your provider about
- What your target blood sugar level is
- What to do if your blood sugar gets too low or too high
- Whether your diabetes medicines will affect other medicines you take
- Any side effects you have from the diabetes medicines
You should not change or stop your diabetes medicines on your own. Talk to your provider first.
NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Diabetes Medicines (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases) Also in Spanish
- Insulin Basics (American Diabetes Association)
- Insulin Therapy (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Taking Medication (American Association of Diabetes Educators) - PDF
- Women and Diabetes - Diabetes Medicines (Food and Drug Administration)
- Beware of Illegally Marketed Diabetes Treatments (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
- Byetta, Victoza, Bydureon: Diabetes Drugs and Weight Loss (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Insulin and Weight Gain: Keep the Pounds Off (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Insulin Pumps (American Diabetes Association)
- Intensive Insulin Therapy: Tight Blood Sugar Control (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Managing Your Medicines (American Diabetes Association) - PDF
- Diabetes and Insulin (Hormone Health Network)
- DPP-4 Inhibitors for Type 2 Diabetes (Hormone Health Network) Also in Spanish
- GLP-1 Receptor Agonists (Hormone Health Network) Also in Spanish
- Insulin (Food and Drug Administration)
- Insulin Secretagogues (Hormone Health Network) Also in Spanish
- Oral Medication (American Diabetes Association)
- Oral Medications: What Are My Options? (American Diabetes Association)
- Type 2 Diabetes and TZDs (Thiazolidinediones) (Hormone Health Network) - PDF Also in Spanish
Statistics and Research
- Two Diabetes Medications Don't Slow Progression of Type 2 Diabetes in Youth (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Benefits and harms of intensive glycemic control in patients with type...
- Article: Metformin: A Salutary Candidate for Colorectal Cancer Treatment in Patients with...
- Article: Tie-2/Angiopoietin pathway modulation as a therapeutic strategy for retinal disease.
- Diabetes Medicines -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American Diabetes Association
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- NIDDK Information Clearinghouses (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)
- Women and Diabetes (Food and Drug Administration)
- Diabetes - insulin therapy (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Diabetes - low blood sugar - self-care (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Giving an insulin injection (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Insulin pumps (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Oral hypoglycemics overdose (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish