Diabetes Health Center

Diabetes has no cure, but the condition can be managed. Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, everyone with type 1 diabetes died within a few years following their diagnosis. While insulin is not a cure, it is considered the first major breakthrough in diabetes treatment.

Insulin can be administered directly into body either by injection, an insulin pump, an insulin jet injector or an insulin infuser. Talk to your doctor about these options and work out a strategy that is easiest for you to fit into your daily regimen.

Today, a healthy diet, physical activity and insulin therapy are the basic treatments for diabetes. Blood sugar levels must be closely monitored.

People with type 2 diabetes may need one or more diabetes medications to control their insulin levels.

There are multiple medications for those with diabetes. Diabetes medication helps not only to keep blood sugar levels in a target range, but also to prevent further complications of the condition such as heart disease, heart attack, kidney disease, nerve damage, digestive problems, eye disease and tooth and gum problems.

Metformin is the first choice diabetes medication recommended by the American Diabetes Association for those with type 2 diabetes. This medication lowers the amount of glucose (sugar) made by your liver, thereby preventing blood sugar levels from getting too high.

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors (Miglitol, Acarbose) help to keep blood sugar from going too high following a meal, a common problem for those with diabetes. These medications work by slowing down the digestion of foods that are high in carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, bread, milk and fruit.

Starlix (nateglinide) helps the body to make more insulin for a short period of time directly after eating. The insulin helps to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating. Prandin (repaglinide) is a similar medication, helping to make more insulin for a short period of time right after meals so that blood sugar levels don't rise too high after eating.

Januvia (sitagliptin) helps to lower blood sugar by helping your body make more insulin when needed while keeping the liver from putting stored glucose into the blood.

Sulfonylureas also help the body to create more insulin to help lower blood glucose.

Actos (pioglitazone) and Avandia (rosiglitazone) are used to treat insulin resistance — the cause of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance means that the body doesn't use insulin properly and that insulin is not absorbed effectively by the body's cells.

Symlin (pramlintide) is another medication that helps to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high after eating. It works by making food move more slowly through the stomach and keeping the liver from storing glucose. This medicine may prevent hunger, leading patients to eat less and perhaps lose weight.

Byetta (exenatide) helps your body make more insulin than is needed and functions in a way similar to Symlin, slowing digestion and preventing glucose storage. 

Managing diabetes is more than simply keeping blood sugar levels under control — it is also essential to manage blood pressure and cholesterol levels through healthy eating, physical activity and proper medication in order to lower risk for cardiovascular disease. At least 65 percent of those with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Aspirin therapy, if recommended by a doctor or health care professional, as well as quitting smoking, can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Those with diabetes must take responsibility and initiative for their day-to-day care. Much of their daily care involves keeping blood sugar levels from going too low or too high. If you have diabetes, you and your doctor should work together, or employ the assistance of a dietician, to design a meal plan for yourself in order to stay healthy and lower your risks of heart disease. You will need to begin to fit physical activity into your daily routine. Exercise can help keep weight down, may help insulin work better and is good for your heart and lungs.

Review Date: 
August 13, 2012
Last Updated:
September 12, 2014