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Medications for Diabetes... how do they work?

Type 2 Diabetes is characterized by an inability to produce adequate insulin.  Insulin moves sugar from the blood into the cell.

Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes includes a healthy diet, exercise, weight loss, and oral medications or insulin.

What's the difference between oral medications and insulin?

Oral medications are only used by Type 2 patients.   These pill form medications work in a variety of ways.  Here are some examples of how oral medications work:
  1. Stimulate the pancreas cells to make more insulin.   The pancreas is an organ located close to your stomach and has a number of functions, one of which is making insulin.  Sulfonylureas and meglitinides are medications helping to stimulate the pancreas to make more insulin.
  2. Block the absorption of sugars.  Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors are an example of this type of medication.
  3. Promote the effectiveness of insulin produced.  Thiazolidinediones are medications promoting effectiveness of insulin.
  4. Reduce the amount of sugar made in the liver.  The liver is a great storage unit for energy.   In a fasted state, the liver supplies energy to the body.  Limiting the amount of sugar made in the liver can be helpful to some with high blood sugar.   Medications such as biguanides work to limit the amount of sugar made in the liver.

Oral medications can be used alone or in combination.

Insulin is delivered to the body via injection.  Those with Type 1 Diabetes must take insulin to replace the insulin their body does not produce.  At times, someone with Type 2 Diabetes might take insulin to better control blood sugar.

Talk with your doctor, pharmacist, and/or diabetes educator about medications.  Learn about side effects and how to take these medications for optimal benefits.

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