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Treatments

What Does Treatment for Diabetes Include?

Specific treatment for diabetes will be determined by your physician(s) based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • the type of diabetes
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes no longer produce insulin, and they must have insulin injections to use the glucose they obtain from eating.

People with type 1 diabetes must give themselves insulin every day. Insulin can either be injected, which involves the use of a needle and syringe, or it can be given by an external or internal insulin pump, insulin pen, jet injector, or insulin patch. Extra amounts of insulin may be taken before meals, depending on the blood glucose level and food to be eaten.

Insulin cannot be taken as a pill. Because it is a protein, it would be broken down during digestion just like the protein in food. It must be injected into the fat under the skin for insulin to get into the blood. The amount of insulin needed depends on height, weight, age, food intake, and activity level. Insulin doses must be balanced with meal times and activities, and dosage levels can be affected by illness, stress, or unexpected events.

Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies do not correctly use it. Some people with type 2 diabetes need diabetes medication or extra insulin to help their bodies use their own insulin better.

Diet and exercise can often bring blood glucose levels down to normal. When these measures are no longer enough, the next step is the addition of medications that lower blood glucose levels.

Oral Medications

Oral medications used to treat diabetes may include:

  • sulfonylurea drugs, which stimulate the production of insulin in the pancreas
  • biguanides, which decrease the amount of sugar made in the liver
  • alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, which slow the absorption of starches
  • meglitinides, which stimulate the production of insulin in the pancreas
  • thiazolidinediones, which makes the body more sensitive to insulin

Only people with type 2 diabetes can use oral medications; they are not helpful for a person with type 1 diabetes, whose pancreas has lost all ability to produce insulin.

Maintaining a proper diet and exercise program is important even when taking diabetes oral medications, which work with diet and exercise, not in place of them.

Diabetes oral medications do not work for everyone and may sometimes stop working after a few months or years.

Insulin Injections

Even when diabetes pills do work, there may be the need to take insulin. And, because diabetes pills may help the body use insulin better, some physicians combine them with insulin injections in people with hard-to-control type 2 diabetes.