Treatments: Diabetes pills
Introduction: Diabetes pills in tablets form are a more common diabetes treatment than insulin injections, used mainly in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes instead of insulin. The majority of diabetics are Type 2 and are typically diagnosed over forty and often overweight. These pills are widely used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, if a diet-only or weight loss treatment is unsuccessful. Type 1 diabetics can sometimes use pills for a short time after diagnosis during their "honeymoon" phase, but eventually require insulin. Most Type 2 diabetics can use pills as the sole treatment for many years, though may require some insulin in later years as the diabetes progresses. A few Type 2 diabetics may require insulin at diagnosis and then go off insulin once they learn to control their diabetes with diet and pills.
There are a variety of pills that help to control or reduce blood sugar levels. They are called "oral hypoglycemics" which just means pills taken by mouth (oral) that lower (hypo) your blood glucose (glycemia).
All of the pills are taken daily and regularly, and often before meals, not just when your sugars go too high. They are aimed to help you achieve blood sugar control easier, but they are not magic cures. Exactly when and how to take the pills depends on your situation and the chosen medications.
Pills do not relieve diabetics of the need to control their diet. For all pill regimens, it is important to also control diet and exercise, as these two factors must be matched to medication. Unfortunately, pills do not fully correct your metabolism and it is important to have a correct diet in order to control blood sugars. Control of cholesterol and blood lipid levels (fats) is also important to most Type 2 diabetics.
Diabetes pills do not contain insulin, but are medications that help in other ways. There are several different types of pills that attempt to control blood sugars different ways. Some of the different ways of controlling blood sugars using pills include:
- Sulfonylureas: Increasing insulin production by helping stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin to overcome any deficiency or resistence. These were the only pills available prior to the 1990's and are the most widely used.
- Biguanides: Reducing "insulin resistence" to help the body use the insulin it has.
- Metformin: Slowing down the liver's output of extra sugars into the bloodstream
- Acarbose: Slowing down digestion of sugars and carbohydrates in the stomach or intestines.
Different pills or combinations of pills work for different people. Not only is everyone different, but there are also variations in Type 2 diabetes. Some Type 2 diabetics are predominantly "insulin resistent" which means they have plenty of insulin, but their muscles resist it and cannot use the insulin to process sugar properly. Other Type 2 diabetics are predominantly "insulin deficient" which means they do not produce enough insulin. And often there is some combination of insulin resistence and deficiency. Thus, choosing the right regimen of pills can sometimes be a trial-and-error affair, where your doctor may vary pills until a good regimen is found.
Most pills have some side effects and each type of pill has its own specific side effects. Some must be taken with meals and some not. Check with your doctor and read your medication's instructions.
However, they all share the common problem that they can cause
blood sugars to go too low,
if mismatched with diet and exercise, which can lead to a dangerous low or "hypo" condition.
Going low in a diabetic hypo is not only a risk for Type 1 diabetics taking insulin,
it can also occur in Type 2 diabetics from their pills.
As for all diabetics on all types of medication,
controlling sugars means balancing between too much medication leading to lows,
versus too little medication or too much food, leading to highs.
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