Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It is a mostly preventable condition caused by the hormone called insulin no longer working as it should, or no longer being produced at all. This article will focus on the common treatments of Type 2 diabetes. If you would like to know more about the condition overall you can read our in-depth article. We also have some information on other common medical conditions on our website.
The main aim of all treatment for Type 2 diabetes is to help control blood glucose levels. This is because blood sugar levels that are not controlled can increase the risk of severe health complications. One of the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes is being overweight. Therefore, some of the treatments may have the aim of weight loss/management.
Types of Type 2 Treatment
There are a variety of treatments available, and the treatment regime will be decided with your health professionals, on a case by case basis. As all cases of Type 2 diabetes are different, treatment forms range from tablets and injectable medications to, in some cases, weight loss surgery.
Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can also make a massive difference to people with diabetes, so this will always be recommended alongside any additional treatment you may need. You will find more information below about different individual treatments available.
Diet and Exercise
With Type 2 diabetes, in the first stages, you may initially be able to treat your condition through diet and exercise. Diabetes UK say that their latest research has shown that weight loss can even put Type 2 diabetes into remission in some cases.
It is recommended that everyone, but especially those with Type 2 diabetes, eat regular, balanced and healthy meals. This is good for your general health but may also help you to lose weight, which should be a focus of your diet if you are overweight and you have Type 2 diabetes. This is because losing weight can help to lower your blood sugar levels.
You should make sure you eat healthier foods and also eat an appropriate portion size. If the goal is to lose weight, a low calorie or Mediterranean diet is often recommended. Before trying a very low-calorie diet you should always discuss your options with your GP, especially if you are on any medication.
Regular physical activity also has many benefits to your health and can aid weight loss. Before you start any new physical activity, you should speak to your diabetes team to ensure you are okay to start the activity and no changes to your medication are required as exercise can affect your insulin levels.
According to the NHS, there are many types of medication available for Type 2 diabetes, but it can take time to find the right combination of medicines at the correct dosage that is the best for you and your condition. In a case where diet and exercise are not enough, the next level of treatment would normally be medication.
All of the different medications work in different ways:
- Biguanide - A typical example of this Metformin, which is usually the first medication you will be prescribed. This works by helping your body respond better to insulin.
- Sulphonylureas – These tablets stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin.
- Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitor – A common example of this is Acarbose, which helps to slow down the rise in your body’s blood sugar after meals. It does this by slowing down the intestine’s absorption of starchy foods.
- Prandial Glucose Regulators - These medications are similar to sulphonylureas, and stimulate the pancreas cells to produce more insulin. However, they are much faster acting and only last for a short time, so they are taken usually around half an hour before a meal.
- Thiazolidinediones – This helps your body use the insulin it naturally produces more effectively by decreasing insulin resistance and improving sensitivity. It also protects the pancreas cells.
- Incretin Mimetics – Incretins are hormones which help your body to regulate insulin and glucose. By assisting the body to produce more insulin and lower glucose production when required, these medications increase the levels of these hormones in your body. These are a relatively new type of drug in an injectable form.
- DPP-4 Inhibitors – DPP-4 is an enzyme which destroys the important Incretin hormone, discussed above. This type of medication blocks the action of these enzymes.
- SGLT2 Inhibitors – This medication decreases the amount of glucose absorbed by your kidneys and your blood.
Insulin is the hormone which your pancreas makes to utilise the glucose in your body for energy. When you have Type 2 diabetes, your body does not produce enough of this, or sometimes the insulin it does make, doesn’t work properly.
Usually, with Type 2 diabetes, it can be controlled with a combination of lifestyle changes and the medications mentioned above. However, in some cases, you will need to use injectable insulin to treat your condition.
There are a few different types of Insulin;
- Rapid/Fast Acting Insulin – This is taken shortly before or after meals. It works very quickly and is usually taken alongside another type of insulin.
- Short-Acting Insulin – This is also sometimes called bolus insulin. It is taken around mealtimes, similarly to rapid-acting insulin, but it acts a little bit slower.
- Mixed Insulin – This is a mixture of long-acting and short-acting insulin. It is still taken around meal times, but you just have it on its own. Unlike short-acting insulin which must be taken with another background type of insulin.
- Intermediate Acting Insulin – Also known as basal insulin. This is taken throughout the day. Unlike some of the others, it is not explicitly taken around meal times but is usually required once or twice a day.
- Long Acting Insulin – This is very similar to intermediate-acting insulin, but it works a little bit slower, and it needs to be taken at the same time each day.
When you are first prescribed insulin, your diabetic team will talk you through the regime and combination you need to follow. It can take time to adapt to having to inject insulin, but you will get used to this over time. Initially, you will be shown how to use the injection you are given so that you are comfortable with the injection technique.
To find out more about the different types of insulin you may be prescribed, take a look at Diabetes UK.
The amount of treatment available for Type 2 diabetes is very vast. In most cases, a combination will be required to get your diabetes under control. It is also important to note that in some cases it may be possible for your condition to go into remission. However, this does depend on many things such as the severity of your Type 2 diabetes.
The first line of treatment will usually be lifestyles changes, this can then be combined with medication and occasionally injectable insulin. However, when you have Type 2 diabetes, you will be under the care of a diabetic team who you will work closely with to get your diabetes under control and find the best treatment fit for you.
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