Diabetes is a condition that occurs when your blood glucose levels (blood sugar) are too high. This can happen if you’re not producing any insulin at all, or if the insulin you’re producing isn’t working effectively and/or you’re not producing enough.
There are three different forms of diabetes, each of which requires unique treatment methods. These three types include:
Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, some of the most common treatment options for people with type 1 diabetes include:
- Blood sugar monitoring
- Healthy foods
- Regular exercise
Type 2 Diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin properly, some of the most common treatment options for people with type 2 diabetes include:
- Weight loss
- Regular exercise
- Insulin therapy or diabetes medication
- Blood sugar monitoring
Gestational Diabetes is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, some of the most common treatment options for people with gestational diabetes include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Blood monitoring
Treatment for type 1 diabetes
In addition to blood sugar monitoring, healthy foods, and regular exercise, according to the American Diabetes Association, when you have type 1 diabetes - it usually means utilizing insulin.
Insulin is a hormone made in your pancreas that can help your body use glucose for energy and can help in controlling blood glucose levels. Insulin requirements for people with diabetes can be estimated based on weight typical doses ranging from 0.4 to 0.1 units/kg/day.
Insulin pumps can be programmed to dispense specific amounts of rapid-acting insulin automatically. This steady dose of insulin is known as your basal rate, and it replaces whatever long-acting insulin you were using. When you eat, you program the pump with the number of carbohydrates you're eating and your current blood sugar, and it will give you what's called a bolus dose of insulin to cover your meal and to correct your blood sugar if it's elevated.
Those with this form of diabetes commonly need lifelong insulin therapy, this typically includes:
Short-acting (regular) insulin: Humulin R and Novolin R.
Rapid-acting insulin: Insulin glulisine (Apidra), Insulin lispro (Humalog), and Insulin Aspart (Novolog)
Intermediate-acting (NPH) insulin: Insulin NPH (Novolin N, Humulin N)
Long-acting insulin: Insulin Glargine (Lantus, Toujeo Solostar), Insulin Detemir (Levemir) and Insulin Degludec (Tresiba)
Non-insulin treatments include oral glucose-lowering drugs, namely:
Surgical treatment for Type 1 diabetes such as pancreas and islet transplantation which normalizes glucose levels but requires lifelong immunosuppression
Treatment For Type 2 Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. To put that into perspective - almost 34 million Americans have diabetes and around 90-95% of those have type 2!
While healthy eating and exercise can help in managing symptoms in people with type 2 diabetes, certain medications may be prescribed as part of a diabetes treatment plan. The medications sometimes used to treat type 2 diabetes include:
Metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza, others)
Generally, metformin is the first medication prescribed for type 2 diabetes it works by lowering glucose production in the liver and improving your body's sensitivity to insulin so that your body uses insulin more effectively.
Nausea and diarrhea are the possible side effects of metformin. These side effects may go away as your body gets used to the medicine or if you take the medicine with a meal. If metformin and lifestyle changes aren't enough to control your blood sugar level, other oral or injected medications can be added.
Sulfonylureas-glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase), Glipizide (Glucotrol), and Glimepiride (Amaryl)
These medications help your body secrete more insulin. Possible side effects include low blood sugar and weight gain.
Meglitinides-repaglinide (Prandin) and Nateglinide (Starlix)
These work like sulfonylureas by stimulating the pancreas to secrete more insulin, but they're faster acting, and the duration of their effect in the body is shorter. They also have a risk of causing low blood sugar and weight gain.
Thiazolidinediones- rosiglitazone (Avandia) and Pioglitazone (Actos)
These medications work by making the body's tissues more sensitive to insulin and ultimately helping with blood sugar control. These drugs have been linked to weight gain and other more-serious side effects, such as an increased risk of heart failure and anemia. Because of these risks, these medications generally aren't first-choice treatments.
DPP-4 inhibitors-sitagliptin (Januvia), Saxagliptin (Onglyza) and Linagliptin (Tradjenta)
These medications help with blood sugar control by reducing blood sugar levels - although they tend to have a very modest effect. They don't cause weight gain but may cause joint pain and increase your risk of pancreatitis.
GLP-1 receptor agonists
These injectable medications slow digestion and help lower blood sugar levels. Their use is often associated with weight loss. Possible side effects include nausea and an increased risk of pancreatitis.
Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon), liraglutide (Victoza) and Semaglutide (Ozempic)
Recent research has shown that liraglutide and semaglutide may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people at high risk of those conditions.
These drugs prevent the kidneys from reabsorbing sugar into the blood. Instead, the sugar is excreted in the urine. Examples include canagliflozin (Invokana), dapagliflozin (Farxiga), and empagliflozin (Jardiance).
Medications in this drug class may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with a high risk of those conditions. Side effects may include vaginal yeast infections, urinary tract infections, low blood pressure, and a higher risk of diabetic ketoacidosis. Canagliflozin, but not the other drugs in the class, has been associated with an increased risk of lower limb amputation.
Treatment For Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes occurs when the Mother’s body is unable to produce enough insulin during pregnancy - it is one of the most common medical disorders in pregnancy. This form of diabetes typically disappears after the mother has given birth but there are some suggested treatments, these include:
Monitoring your blood sugar
While you're pregnant, your health care team may ask you to check your blood sugar four to five times a day, first thing in the morning and after meals — to make sure your level stays within a healthy range. This may sound inconvenient and difficult, but it becomes easier with practice.
Eating the right kinds of food in healthy portions is one of the best ways to control your blood sugar and prevent too much weight gain, which can put you at higher risk of complications
Regular physical activity plays a key role in every woman's wellness plan before, during, and after pregnancy. Exercise lowers your blood sugar by stimulating your body to move glucose into your cells, where it's used for energy. Exercise also increases your cells' sensitivity to insulin, which means your body will need to produce less insulin to transport sugar.
If diet and exercise aren't enough, you may need insulin injections to lower your blood sugar, these may include:
Fast-acting insulin that you take before a meal, or an intermediate- or long-acting (basal) insulin that you take at bedtime or upon waking
Oral medications such as glyburide and metformin do appear to be effective and safe for gestational diabetes
What is the latest drug for diabetes?
While the only medication available to treat people with type 1 diabetes is insulin, those with type 2 have a larger range of medication options and sometimes may even need to take more than one type of medication to manage their condition.
In early 2020, the FDA approved a new medication that works towards lowering blood sugar in adults: Trijardy XR. Trijardy XR is a tablet that contains three type 2 diabetes medications in one pill, these include:
- Jardiance (empagliflozin)
- Tradjenta (linagliptin)
- Metformin hydrochloride extended-release
This prescribed medication works alongside a healthy diet and exercise to help lower blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes.
It’s important to note that Trijardy XR is not recommended for those with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis.
What are the common side effects of diabetes treatments?
Following a diabetes diagnosis, it’s important to sit down with your doctor and discuss treatment options. As every diabetes journey is unique, a medication that may work for one patient, may not work for another.
While a huge part of managing diabetes includes a healthy diet and staying active, there are some medications that may need to be taken - each of which comes with their own unique side effects. Some of the most common include:
- Abdominal discomfort
Remember, it’s crucial to take the oral medication that’s right for you. If you’re experiencing discomfort as a result of your diabetes treatment, it’s important to reach out to your doctor and discuss your other options.
The best and most reliable way to keep an eye on your blood sugar levels is with a test. Simply ask your doctor to find out more or test from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s at-home Diabetes Test for HbA1c can provide insight to your blood sugar levels over a period of time. A high HbA1c result indicates that you have too much sugar in your blood.
This is done by taking a simple finger prick sample which is sent to the same labs used by doctors and hospitals. Your online results will be available within 5 days and our medical team is available throughout the day to answer any questions you may have.
It’s recommended you take the test if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, have a family history of diabetes, or are experiencing symptoms of diabetes such as:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Feeling very hungry
See also: How do you Check for Diabetes From Home?
Written and medically reviewed by Dr. Chitrai Sood