Why Your Medication Changes

Different diabetes medications work differently

Despite your best efforts, your diabetes can change over time. Even when you’re taking diabetes medication and following your healthcare provider’s recommendation of healthy eating and exercise, your blood sugar may become harder to manage. Think of it this way: You change your exercise routine and meal planning to help control your blood sugar. Your medication is another part of your overall diabetes management plan that your healthcare provider and you may change as your diabetes changes.

When it comes to treating diabetes, different people have different needs

I take an oral medication.
My healthcare provider wants
me to add a second oral
medication that works
differently to help control 
my blood sugar
insulin alone isn't
enough for me. So, my
healthcare provider is having
me add a GLP-1 to help
manage my blood
I take several oral
medications but my blood
sugar is up and down.
My doctor wants me to
add long-acting insulin
to gain control

Your healthcare provider may recommend adding different medications to your treatment plan. Here’s a look at some of these medications and how they work to help you manage your diabetes.

How oral medications can help

  • Biguanides (metformin) help decrease the amount of blood sugar made by your liver. They also help improve the way your body responds to insulin.
  • Sulfonylureas help your pancreas make more insulin; insulin helps lower blood sugar.
  • DPP-4 Inhibitors prevent the breakdown of GLP-1 so that GLP-1 can help the pancreas make more insulin after meals.
  • SGLT2 Inhibitors help lower blood sugar by eliminating sugar in the urine.
  • Thiazolidinediones help insulin work better in your muscles and fat cells and reduce the sugar produced in the liver.
  • Possible side effects of oral medications: Each oral treatment works in a different way and can have different side effects. Some possible side effects may include: gas, diarrhea, upset stomach, risk for low blood sugar, weight gain, yeast infections, and urinary tract infections.

How injectable medications can help

  • Insulins Basal insulin (also referred to as “long-acting insulin”) provides blood sugar-lowering activity for approximately 24 hours. Along with the rest of your treatment plan, it can help control your blood sugar between meals and while you are sleeping.

    Intermediate-acting insulin begins working 2-4 hours after you take it and helps lower your blood sugar for 12-18 hours.

    Mealtime insulin is released quickly, helping you control your blood sugar after meals.

    Possible side effects of insulin: The most common side effect of insulin is low blood sugar. Some people may experience symptoms of low blood sugar such as shaking, sweating, fast heartbeat, and blurred vision, while some experience no symptoms at all.
  • GLP-1 Receptor Agonist A GLP-1 receptor agonist (GLP-1 RA) helps your pancreas make more insulin, which helps lower blood sugar. GLP-1 RA helps decrease the amount of blood sugar made by your liver. It also helps slow down the breakdown of foods in your stomach and intestines, which slows down the increase in blood sugar.

    Possible side effects of GLP-1 RA: The most common side effect of GLP-1 RA is nausea. Some people also experience vomiting or diarrhea. These side effects tend to occur when you first begin using a GLP-1 RA and are often temporary.


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