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Diabetes Medications

male doctor writing on tabletA healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a well-rounded diet, is the key to managing type 2 diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus. Some patients, however, are also prescribed diabetes medications to regulate insulin and keep blood sugars at target levels. For some, a single medication will do the trick but for other patients, a combination of diabetes drugs is necessary. But what kind of side effects might you experience? And are drugs always necessary?

The purpose of diabetes medications

Diabetes drugs help manage type II diabetes by lowering blood sugar. There are several ways that a prescription can achieve this result:

  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Inhibit glucose production and release from the liver
  • Stimulation of the pancreas to produce and release more insulin
  • Blocking stomach enzymes that aid in the digestion of carbohydrates, which can spike blood sugar

These medications are categorized by drug class. While there may be several drugs per class, each works in the same basic way. Some pills blend two classes of drugs, for use in patients who require a more complex medication solution to their condition.

Popular diabetes drugs

If you are managing diabetes with diet and medication, it’s important to know what drugs you’re taking. Here are some of today’s most popular classes of diabetes medications and their possible side effects:

  • Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors: Acarbose (Precose) and miglitol (Glyset) slow the breakdown of certain starches and sugars, which can spike blood sugar, but may also cause gas, diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • Biguanides: Metformin (Fortamet and Glucophage) can reduce glucose release from the liver and improve insulin sensitivity. This drug class is also known to cause diarrhea, nausea, and the buildup of lactic acid.
  • Dipeptidy peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors: Saxagliptin (Onglyza), sitagliptin (Januvia), and linagliptin (Tradjenta) form a diabetes drug class that stimulate insulin release and inhibits glucose, but is also linked to pancreas inflammation, sore throat, headache, and upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Meglitinides: Repaglinide (Prandin) and nateglinide (Starlix) stimulate insulin production but can also cause dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), back pain, nausea and weight gain.
  • Sulfonylureas: Glipizide (Glucotrol), glimepiride (Amaryl), and glyburide (DiaBeta and Glynase) stimulate the release of insulin, but may also be linked to skin rash, weight gain, nausea and hypoglycemia.
  • Thiazolidinediones: Rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) improve insulin sensitivity and inhibit the release of glucose, but are also linked to serious side effects like heart attack, heart failure, stroke and bladder cancer.

There are also two popular classes of injectable diabetes meds:

  • Amylin mimetics: Pramlintide (Symlin) stimulates insulin release, but may also cause low blood sugar, headache, nausea and vomiting. There may also be redness and irritation at the injection site.
  • Incretin mimetics: Exenatide (Byetta) and liraglutide (Victoza) stimulate insulin release and are most often combined with metformin and sulfonylurea. This drug class may cause headache, nausea, vomiting and life-threatening kidney damage and kidney failure.

Diabetic diet for weight loss offers another solution

The best way to manage diabetes is through diet and exercise, since these methods are not associated with the dangerous side effects of diabetes medications. Physician-assisted programs, such as those available through The Center for Medical Weight Loss, take your individual factors into account: lifestyle, preferences, activity level, and requirements for diabetes maintenance. In fact, the weight loss physicians at the Center have years of success in crafting a healthy, effective diabetic diet for weight loss that can eliminate the need for medication in many patients. Get more information on diabetes and weight loss.

If you are suffering from type II diabetes and are wary of drug side effects, contact The Center for Medical Weight Loss nearest you. Imagine a life free from daily medications and free of diabetes, all through a healthy diet and activity plan tailored to your particular needs. To find a Center in your area, just type in your zip code in the box above. Special introductory offers are available to first-time clients in many locations.