Type 2 diabetes treatment has come a long way in the last 10 years, experts say, with new drugs and devices adding up to better lives for patients.
"In the last decade, I think that we've transformed the way we manage diabetes," says Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and staff physician at Joslin Diabetes Center. He points to new classes of drugs, better devices, and a fuller understanding of how exercise and diet can treat the condition.
with diabetes can seem like a full-time job -- trying to keep up with
everything you need to do for proper diabetes care.
"Diabetes is a very time-consuming disease to manage well," says
Karmeen Kulkarni, MS, RD, CDE, and former president of health care and
education for the American Diabetes Association. "The medication, the food, the physical activity -- you add life
in general to that whole picture and it ends up being quite
Doctors have also become much more aggressive in treating diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes are getting diagnosed and treated earlier than they once did -- and having better outcomes.
Type 2 Diabetes Treatment: New Medications
"We've seen several new, exciting classes of drugs in the past decade," says Cypess. New drugs and types of insulin have made treatment better. In some cases, it's simpler, too.
DPP-4 inhibitors include the oral drugs Januvia, Nesina, Onglyza, and Tradjenta. These protect a natural compound in the body -- GLP-1 -- from breaking down. GLP-1 helps lower blood glucose.
Incretin mimetics or GLP analogs include the injected drugs Byetta, Bydureon, Tanzeum, Trulicity, and Victoza. They use the body's own signaling system to boost insulin after meals.
Sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors work by blocking glucose from being reabsorbed by the kidneys. That raises the amount of glucose urinated, and lowers the amount of glucose in the blood. Currently, Invokana (canaglifozin), dapagliflozin (Farxiga), and Jardiance (empagliflozin) are the only drugs in this class that's approved by the FDA. More SGLT2 inhibitors are being developed.
Other drugs include Symilin, an injectable synthetic hormone. It helps lower blood sugar after meals in people with diabetes who use insulin.
Combination drugs have made a difference. They join different medications in one pill -- often metformin and a sulfonylurea, a meglitinide, a DPP4 inhibitor, a thiazolidinedione, or a thiazolidinedione in combination with a sulfonylurea. This cuts down the number of pills a person has to take. Combination drugs include Actoplus MET, Avandamet, Duetact, Glucovance, Metaglip, Kazano, Oseni, and PrandiMet. There can be drawbacks. They tend to cost more than generic drugs. They can also make it harder to fine-tune the treatment. "When you have a combination drug, you can't adjust the dose of one drug without adjusting the other too," says Rita Kalyani, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. "There is less room for precision."
New types of insulin allow some people to take just one injection of a long-acting insulin each day. That can be much easier than multiple injections of standard insulin, says Cypess.
Future medications. Other classes of medication are in development. One type doesn't affect insulin, unlike most diabetes drugs. It blocks the body from reabsorbing glucose from urine, says Kalyani. While the FDA has not approved any drug from this class, it could in the future.
Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!
Your level is currently
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.
Thank you for signing up for the WebMD Diabetes Newsletter!
You'll find tips and tricks as well as the latest news and research on Diabetes.
Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?
Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.