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The Progression of Type 2 Diabetes Treatments


Allie Lemco Toren

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.


Understanding Non-Insulin Injectable Therapies for Diabetes

Some patients could greatly benefit from these non-insulin injections options.
Mature couple exercising

Each year, about 1.4 million people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and must embark on a lifelong journey to manage this chronic condition. Diabetes develops when your body doesn’t respond well to insulin, which is a hormone made in your pancreas. Insulin is responsible for helping your body properly use sugar (glucose) from your food—your body typically uses glucose for energy, but when you have diabetes, this process doesn’t work. To treat the condition, you’ve got to take steps to get things functioning well again. There are many ways to do this—first, you’ll need to make some lifestyle changes, and then your doctor will likely prescribe medications, before finally turning to insulin injections. Everyone’s path is different, and it might take a few tries to find the right treatment for you, but keep in mind that your doctor will be with you every step of the way.

Managing diabetes goes beyond focusing on blood sugar levels—you’ve got to commit to living a healthy life, staying active, eating well, and minimizing stress. Follow these tips to get on the right path.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 18, 2017

2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Lifestyle Changes

Not everyone diagnosed with diabetes needs medication at first. It might be that you just need to make healthy lifestyle changes. Your doctor will likely connect you with a certified diabetes educator, who can work with you to make these changes and get control of your diabetes. This may mean an overhaul of your typical diet, making sure you get plenty of high-fiber, low-fat foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You’ll also want to eat fewer refined carbohydrates (like white bread and rice), less meat, and fewer sweets. You’ll start on a fitness routine to get your body more active and promote weight loss, and you’ll also want to try some stress relief techniques, like yoga or meditation, to keep blood pressure down and promote good overall health.

Oral Medications

However, often lifestyle changes aren’t enough to help you gain control of your diabetes, so your doctor will turn to oral medications. These pills work in different ways to get your blood sugar levels balanced. Keep in mind, though, that the combination of oral medications and lifestyle changes is the most effective way to manage your diabetes—just because you’re prescribed medication doesn’t mean you should quit going to the gym or stop watching what you eat.

There are several different types of oral diabetes medications your doctor can prescribe. The most common medication is called metformin, and it works by limiting how much sugar your liver releases into your bloodstream. Other types of diabetes pills stimulate your pancreas to release more insulin, so it can regulate your blood sugar levels. And there are some drugs that manage your blood sugar levels by both limiting the amount of glucose your body makes and stimulating insulin production.

Sometimes, diabetes pills stop working after a period of time—they may stop being effective after just a few months or a few years. Often, we’re not sure exactly why they don’t work anymore, but it doesn’t mean your diabetes has gotten worse. In the past, when this happened, doctors would put patients on insulin right away. However, today we have many more options to try before insulin. In these cases, your doctor may prescribe you more than one oral medication to take; this is called combination therapy. There are even medications available that combine two oral drugs in one pill, so you’re not taking lots of pills every day. Many people take two or three kinds of oral diabetes pills to manage their condition, and some even take pills and insulin together, or pills and non-insulin injections together. It all depends on your specific case, and your doctor will work to find the right fit for you.

Non-Insulin Injectable Medications

In recent years, a new type of diabetes drug has come onto the market—the non-insulin injectable. If oral drugs aren’t helping you stay in control of your diabetes, your doctor might prescribe you a non-insulin injectable medication. They work by increasing the amount of insulin your body makes and decreasing the amount of sugar your body sends into your bloodstream. If you have a hard time remembering to take your pills several times a day, non-insulin injectables can be a good option; it depends on the specific medication, but some are injected once a week, once a day, or twice a day.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Dec 23, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Treatment and Care. American Diabetes Association.
  2. Can Diabetes Pills Help Me? American Diabetes Association.
  3. Oral Diabetes Medications Summary Chart. Joslin Diabetes Center of Harvard University.
  4. Type 2 Diabetes. Mayo Clinic.
  5. Cefalu WT, Riddle MC. SGLT2 Inhibitors: The Latest “New Kids on the Block”! Diabetes Care. 2015;38(3): 352-354.
  6. Sodium-glucose Cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) Inhibitors. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  7. Noninsulin Diabetes Medications Summary Chart. Joslin Diabetes Center of Harvard University.
  8. Insulin Basics. American Diabetes Association.
  9. The Truth About Insulin and Type 2 Diabetes. Joslin Diabetes Center of Harvard University.

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