Type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition that can lead to significant health problems. However making changes to your lifestyle and taking medicines may help you live a long and prosperous life. Please note that not everyone with diabetes requires medication. But in real life most people do and can end up taking numerous medicines. I will attempt in this blog to outline most of these medicines and tell you a little bit about them.
Medicines to control your blood sugar
By being diagnosed with diabetes what your doctor is really telling you is that you have too much sugar (glucose) in your blood. Glucose is kind of like a fuel that your body uses for energy. So this is a good thing provided you have a hormone called insulin to control the levels of glucose that you have in the blood. Insulin is usually made in the pancreas of your body however if you have type 2 diabetes your body is not making enough insulin, or the insulin that your body does make is not working properly. As a result of this the glucose builds up in your blood stream and can really make you quite ill. The medical name for too much glucose in the blood is hyperglycemia.
If this hyperglycemia is not treated then this is bad news and can result in the damage of your blood vessels as well as putting you at higher risk of stroke, heart attack or poor circulation problems in your legs. Your kidneys, feet and eyes may also be adversely affected. Your doctor may suggest several types of tablets that can act to keep your sugar levels under control. These work differently and some help you to produce more insulin while others help your body to use insulin better.
Metformin is one of the first medicines you are likely to be offered. This helps you to control your blood sugars more effectively than just using diet and exercise. One of the benefits of metformin is that it does not make you put on weight, unlike many of the other diabetes medications. One of the problems is that it may make you feel sick or get diarrhea especially if you take it on an empty stomach. Your doctor may give you this to take alone or you may be given another medication in addition.
Sulphonylurea medicines are sometimes used as a first diabetes medicine. These medicines come in different shapes and sizes. Their generic names are chlorpropamide, glimepiride, glipizide, tolbutamide, glibenclamide, gliclazide and gliquidone. These medicines help to control your blood sugar and you may be given one of these on its own, or with metformin. The only problem with these medications is that they may make your sugar levels go too low. That’s more likely with chlorpropamide or glibenclamide, which are older drugs that seem to hang around in the body for longer than the newer ones. Things you need to watch out for when on these meds are symptoms of low blood sugar such as feeling dizzy, shaky, nervous, drowsy or confused. The medical name for the combination of these symptoms is hypoglycemia. If this is to happen to you, medical assistance is required immediately. Also some people have an allergic reaction when they start these meds that usually manifests as a skin rash.
Meglitinide medicines are sometimes used instead of sulphonylureas. There are two types of meglitinides, called nateglinide and repaglinide. These medicines are to be taken right before you eat in order to help control your blood sugar. You may be given these medicines in addition to metformin and one of the complications is that they may make your blood sugar too low, but this is less likely than it is with sulphonylureas.
Glitazone medicines are only used if you are also taking either metformin or a sulphonylurea. There are two types, rosiglitazone and pioglitazone. These are medicines that are used in addition to metformin or sulphonylureas if they are unable to keep blood sugar levels down low enough on their own. The problems with these medications are that they can make you put on weight, they may cause some liver damage and can cause swelling in your hands and feet. You will need to go to the doctor for regular blood checks to ensure they are not harming your liver. These medications can also cause heart failure in some people; this is where your heart doesn’t pump as well as it should. They can also make the bones weaker and may result in a higher risk of you getting a broken bone, especially in women.
Acarbose is sometimes used if you can’t take another type of diabetes Medicine. It slows down the speed at which your body breaks down food to make glucose. There is a good chance that this will help control your blood sugar, but one of the problems is that it can cause bloating, diarrhea and wind. It may be taken on its own or with another type of medicine for diabetes.
Medicines to control your blood pressure
When you have diabetes that means you are more likely than the rest of the population to have a heart attack, stroke or problems with your circulation. This is because having too much sugar in your blood thickens the blood and does not allow it to flow as well through your blood vessels. By keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level you will be able to decrease your risk of having these complications. Because doctors want you to have a low level they are willing to help out with medicines that will keep the pressure down. So if you are given blood pressure tablets do not just assume that your pressures have skyrocketed, it may just be a preventative method or your values may just be a little high. These medicines are to help you to avoid getting heart and circulation problems in the future. There are lots of different types of medicines that are given to lower blood pressure. Below are some of the more common types, remember that you may be given one or many of these medicines depending on the recommendations of your doctor.
Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors keep your blood vessels from narrowing and your heart from working as hard. Examples are captopril, perindopri and ramipril. They all work well to lower your blood pressure. And there is some evidence to show they reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke. There is however some side effects associated with these medications the most common of which being a dry cough. Other people will get low blood pressure that will make them feel dizzy and others may experience problems with their kidneys and/or heart rhythm.
Beta-blockers, work by slowing down your heartbeat and by reducing the amount of blood that is pumped with each beat. Examples are bisoprolol, carvedilol and propranolol. These are highly effective medicines but may not be as effective as ACE inhibitors. When you take a beta-blocker you may notice that you feel more tired than usual or that your hands and feet feel cold. There may also be erection problems in the male user.
Diuretics help your body to get rid of excess salt and water. Examples are bendrofluazide, indapamide, metolazone. Usually a diuretic is given in combination with other blood pressure lowering medications. Diuretics can make you feel thirsty, and put your blood sugar up.
Calcium channel blockers keep the blood vessels relaxed and open, making it easier for blood to flow through them. Examples are amlodipine, nifedipine and verapamil. These are effective blood lowering medications but are most often only used in combination with other blood pressure lowering meds. Some of the side effects of this class of drugs is that you may experience headaches, swollen ankles, flushing, dizziness, constipation and an unusual heart beat.
Medicines to control your cholesterol Taking medicines to keep your cholesterol (a fatty substance in your blood) at a healthy level can help reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. These medications can help in diabetes even if your blood cholesterol is not that high to start with. Statins are the usual cholesterol lowering medications and are very effective. They can cause damage to your liver or muscles but this is very rare. If statins are not effective for you, you have side effects, or if statins alone are not sufficient then you can take another class of drugs called fibrates. These reduce the amount of simple fats (triglycerides) in your blood. They also lower cholesterol. Also Aspirin stops your blood from sticking together thus making you less likely to form blood clots. This can help to prevent stroke or heart attack that are more common in those with diabetes. Many people with diabetes take a low dose of Aspirin to avoid this.