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New Type 2 Diabetes Medications

By Terri D'Arrigo
WebMD Feature

Even if you can manage your diabetes now by just eating well and being active, you may need medication someday.

We've come far since the 1920s, when insulin was first used to treat diabetes. There's no magic pill yet, but you have more options than ever before to help control your blood sugar. And more are coming.

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Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 (SGLT2) Inhibitors

Most type 2 diabetes drugs work by helping your body make insulin or use it better. SGLT2 inhibitors are different because they don't have anything to do with insulin.

Your kidneys try to keep glucose, a kind of sugar your cells use for energy, out of your pee. Proteins called SGLTs make sure the glucose goes back into your body.

But with type 2 diabetes, if your blood sugar level is already creeping up, you don't need the glucose in your body. These pills turn off one of those proteins so that you pee it out instead.

  • Canagliflozin (Invokamet, Invokana)
  • Dapagliflozin (Farxiga, Xigduo)
  • Empagliflozin (Jardiance)

SGLT2 inhibitors have some extra benefits, says John B. Buse, MD, PhD, director of the Diabetes Care Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "You're losing calories through urine, so there is weight loss -- usually about 5 to 10 pounds in 6 to 12 months."

When you take SGLT2 inhibitors, you lose a little bit of salt, too, which can help with your blood pressure.

These drugs aren't perfect, he says. "The downside is that, because there is sugar in your nether regions, women have a higher risk of yeast infections, and uncircumcised men can get foreskin infections."

To avoid the risk of dehydration, Buse says that elderly people with kidney disease and people who are taking diuretics, pills that make you pee out extra water, shouldn't take SGLT2 inhibitors.

Inhaled Insulin

The only inhaled insulin on the market is Afrezza. It's a fast-acting insulin, so you only take it at mealtimes. It comes in 4-unit and 8-unit cartridges that you pop into a small gadget, like the ones people with asthma use.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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