The goal of treating diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range. For many with type 2 diabetes, diet modifications and exercise can accomplish these goals. However, a variety of diabetes medications are also available. These drugs work in many different ways, all with the goal of regulating blood sugar.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved more than three dozen drugs
for use in the treatment of diabetes. Many of these are insulin injections to help replace what the body of a diabetic is not able to make on its own. Others are targeted medications to help the body regulate blood sugar in other ways. All of them have potentially dangerous side effects.
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According to Mayo Clinic doctors, some drugs
are intended to make the body more sensitive to insulin. Metformin and Thiazolidinediones both make the body more sensitive to insulin. Metformin also lowers blood sugar by reducing the levels of glucose produced in the liver. Thiazolidinediones have been linked to some serious side effects that include weight gain and heart problems.
Other drugs are linked to making the body produce more insulin on its own. Sulfonylureas and Meglitinides fall into this category. Both have the danger of taking blood sugar too low.
SGLT2 inhibitors are designed to help keep blood sugar low by working on the way the kidneys process glucose. The FDA has approved the medication class
, but warns that they may lead to too much acid in the blood. The FDA advises patients to be aware of the signs of ketoacidosis and seek medical attention if necessary.
DPP-4 inhibitors are able to help trick the body into producing more insulin. According to WebMD, the DPP-4 inhibitors
encourage the body to produce more incretion, which is a natural enzyme that tells the body to produce the insulin necessary to lower blood glucose levels.
According to the American Diabetes Association, other drugs are aimed at helping the body break down the sugars in foods. These include alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, which help the body break down starches in the intestines. Bile acid sequestrants work to lower LDL cholesterol and appear to reduce glucose levels through the digestion process as well.
Insulin remains the most commonly prescribed drug to help with diabetes. Doctors often will advise patients to use a combination of drugs to regulate their condition.
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