Why Do You Need to Take Medication for Type 2 Diabetes?
People with type 2 diabetes have several things going on in their bodies with blood glucose, insulin, and other hormones:
- People with type 2 diabetes may not make as much insulin as they used to — or none at all.
- People with type 2 diabetes may not be as sensitive to the hormone insulin (called insulin resistance) as people who don’t have diabetes.
- Other hormones, called incretins, affect how much insulin the body releases and help control blood glucose. For some people with type 2 diabetes, a hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) may not work properly and may not stimulate the pancreas to make enough insulin.
- People with type 2 diabetes may release too much glucose from their livers, causing blood glucose to rise.
All these things can cause high blood glucose, which can cause short- and long-term health problems. Medication can target these different problems to help lower your blood glucose. In this chapter, we describe how each medication works. Some people with type 2 diabetes may need to take insulin because their bodies are no longer responsive to blood glucose–lowering medications or because their bodies don’t make any insulin at all.
Your diabetes medication regimen can change over time. You may take a drug like metformin at the beginning, but then need to add or change medications to keep your blood glucose in your target range later on. (Remember: Most people are aiming for an A1C of 7 percent or less.) Or you may experience side effects that prompt medication changes. You may also need to take insulin at diagnosis or several years down the road. It totally depends on the individual!
Your healthcare team is your number-one resource for medications. You’ll work with your nurse, doctor, pharmacist, physician assistant, or diabetes educator to troubleshoot problems or adjust doses.
Never stop taking a medication because you think it’s not working or because of annoying side effects (an unintended effect, such as diarrhea or flatulence, of taking a certain drug). Instead, call your provider and tell her what’s going on. Don’t be shy about bringing up concerns like bowel movements, changes in mood, or any other concern. All drugs can have side effects, although some may be more severe than others.
Know the names, doses, and instructions for each medication you take. If you’re like most people, you’ll probably need to write them down. Don’t be afraid to ask your provider or pharmacist for these details each time you see her.