Non-Insulin Medicines for Type 2 Diabetes: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

There are different types of non-insulin medicines for diabetes. Each works in a different way to help you control your blood sugar. Some types help your body make insulin to lower your blood sugar. Others lower how much insulin your body needs. Some can slow how quickly your body digests sugars. And some can remove extra glucose through your urine.

Some of these medicines are:

  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors. These keep starches from breaking down. This means that they lower the amount of glucose absorbed when you eat. They do not help your body make more insulin. So they will not cause low blood sugar unless they are used with other medicines for diabetes. An example is acarbose.
  • DPP-4 inhibitors. These help the body increase the level of insulin after eating. They also help the body make less of a hormone that raises blood sugar. They include linagliptin, saxagliptin, and sitagliptin.
  • Incretin hormones (GLP-1 receptor agonists). Your body makes a protein that can raise your insulin level, lower your blood sugar, and make you less hungry. You can inject hormone medicines that work the same way as this protein. They include exenatide and liraglutide.
  • Meglitinides. These help your body release insulin. They also help slow how your body digests sugars. In this way, they prevent your blood sugar from rising too fast after you eat. An example is nateglinide.
  • Metformin. This lowers how much glucose your liver makes. And it helps you respond better to insulin. It also lowers the amount of stored sugar that your liver releases when you are not eating.
  • Sodium glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitors (SGLT2 inhibitors). These help to remove extra glucose through your urine. They may also help some people lose weight. They include canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin.
  • Sulfonylureas. These help the body release more insulin. Some work for many hours and can cause low blood sugar if you don't eat as you expected. They include gliclazide, glimepiride, and glyburide.
  • Thiazolidinediones. These reduce the amount of blood glucose. They also help you respond better to insulin. They include pioglitazone and rosiglitazone.

You may need to take more than one medicine for diabetes. Two or more medicines may work better to lower your blood sugar level than just one medicine.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Eat a healthy diet. Get some exercise each day. This may help you to reduce how much medicine you need.
  • Do not take other prescription or over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbal products, or supplements without talking to your doctor first. Some medicines for type 2 diabetes can cause problems with other medicines or supplements.
  • Tell your doctor if you plan to get pregnant. Some of these drugs are not safe for pregnant women.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Meglitinides or sulfonylureas can cause your blood sugar to drop very low. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Check your blood sugar levels often. You can use a glucose monitor. Keeping track can help you know how certain foods, activities, and medicines affect your blood sugar. And it can help you keep your blood sugar from getting so low that it's not safe.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness), or you suddenly become very sleepy or confused. (You may have very low blood sugar.)
  • You have symptoms of high blood sugar, such as:
    • Blurred vision.
    • Trouble staying awake or being woken up.
    • Fast, deep breathing.
    • Breath that smells fruity.
    • Belly pain, not feeling hungry, and vomiting.
    • Feeling confused.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are sick and cannot control your blood sugar.
  • You have been vomiting or have had diarrhea for more than 6 hours.
  • Your blood sugar stays higher than the level your doctor has set for you.
  • You have symptoms of low blood sugar, such as:
    • Sweating.
    • Feeling nervous, shaky, and weak.
    • Extreme hunger and slight nausea.
    • Dizziness and headache.
    • Blurred vision.
    • Confusion.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have a hard time knowing when your blood sugar is low.
  • You have trouble keeping your blood sugar in the target range.
  • You often have problems controlling your blood sugar.
  • You have symptoms of long-term diabetes problems, such as:
    • New vision changes.
    • New pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or feet.
    • Skin problems.

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