September 01, 2014

Controlling diabetes

Drug choices for blood sugar

Controlling diabetesAfter your diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, your doctor sat down with you to discuss possible drug options for controlling blood sugar, which thankfully hadn't yet risen to severe levels. What surprised you most was that insulin wasn't one of the drugs on the list.

The hormone insulin is probably the drug most commonly associated with diabetes. And for people who have type 1 diabetes — in which the pancreas produces little if any insulin naturally — injections of insulin are the only way to help the body use and regulate ¬≠digested food energy in the form of blood sugar (glucose).

With type 2 diabetes, it's a different story. The pancreas produces insulin, but cells throughout the body become resistant to insulin's ability to unlock cellular gates that allow blood glucose to enter cells.

People with type 2 diabetes may require insulin injections. However, the disease often can be successfully managed with changes in diet and exercise — and with one or more drugs that help your body to better utilize and regulate blood sugar.

Lifestyle as medicine

With diabetes of any type, keeping your blood glucose levels in control is important because over the long term, excess glucose in the bloodstream damages blood vessels and nerves, leading to problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage and nerve damage.

Since good control — as measured by a glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test — is associated with a decreased risk of diabetes-related complications, it's important to tackle blood glucose...