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Oral Medications for Type 2 Diabetes

Many people with type 2 diabetes take medications (pills) by mouth to help to manage their blood sugar. There are 6 different types of oral medication for diabetes described below. These pills are not insulin, although some people with type 2 diabetes do use insulin shots. They work in different ways to help control blood sugar levels. For example, some help the body release more insulin; while others help the body use the insulin that the body produces. You may take a combination of these medications or you may take pills with more than one type of medication in them.

Your health care provider may change your medications to help you have better control of your blood sugar. It is very important that you follow your health care provider’s instructions:

  • Take your diabetes medications as prescribed.

  • Eat meals and snacks on schedule.

  • Exercise every day.

  • Check your blood sugar levels.

Because these medications help lower blood sugar, your blood sugar can get too low which is called hypoglycemia. Make sure you talk with your health care provider about what to do if you have low blood sugar. With low blood sugar you may have:

  • Shakiness

  • Nervousness or feeling irritable

  • Sweating or chills

  • Confusion

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Dizziness

  • Hunger or nausea

  • Headaches

  • Weakness or feeling tired

  • Sadness or anger

 

Type of medication

How it works

You should know...

Sulfonylurea 

Helps the body to release more insulin 

Usually taken before main meals 

Meglitinide 

Helps the body to release more insulin 

Usually taken before main meals 

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitor 

Slows digestion of sugars and starches and helps keep your blood sugar from getting too high after a meal 

Usually taken with the first bite of each main meal 

Thiazolidinedione 

Helps your muscle and fat cells use insulin better and decrease the amount of glucose made by the liver 

Usually taken 1 to 2 times a day; May need blood tests to check your liver before starting and while taking these medications 

Biguanide 

Helps your muscle cells use insulin better and decrease the amount of glucose made by the liver 

Usually taken 2 times a day 

DPP-4 inhibitor 

Increases the release of insulin when blood glucose rises 

Usually taken once a day 

Combination pills 

Depends on the medicines in the pill 

Contain more than 1 type of medicine in each pill 

 

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