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Sulfonylureas for Type 2 Diabetes

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
chlorpropamideDiabinese
glimepirideAmaryl
glipizideGlucotrol, Glucotrol XL
glyburideDiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase
tolazamide
tolbutamide

Sulfonylureas are also available in combination pills. Glyburide is combined with the biguanide medicine metformin (Glucovance). Glipizide is combined with metformin (Metaglip). Glimepiride is combined with the thiazolidinedione medicines rosiglitazone (Avandaryl) and pioglitazone (Duetact).

How It Works

Sulfonylurea medicines increase the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas, and insulin lowers blood sugar.

Why It Is Used

Sulfonylurea medicines are prescribed for people with type 2 diabetes when eating healthy foods, weight loss, and exercise do not keep the blood sugar level within a target range. They are helpful for people who cannot make enough insulin or who have become resistant to the insulin the body makes.

These medicines can help control blood sugar levels in children and young adults who have type 2 diabetes and are overweight.

How Well It Works

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that can get worse over time, so medicines may need to change.

Diabetes medicines work best for people who are being active and eating healthy foods. Studies have suggested that sulfonylureas lower hemoglobin A1c by 1% to 2%.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

Call your doctor if you have:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Sulfonylurea medicines increase insulin levels even if you have not eaten food. Watch for symptoms of low blood sugar, especially if you drink alcohol.

People with kidney or liver problems might not be able to take sulfonylurea medicines.

Skin can be more easily sunburned when taking tolbutamide or tolazamide. Chlorpropamide can cause a skin rash.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Sulfonylurea medicines are an effective treatment for many people who have type 2 diabetes. If one of these medicines keeps your blood sugar within a target range, your risks of long-term complications of diabetes can be reduced. Other important factors that contribute to complications include high blood pressure, being overweight, high cholesterol levels, and smoking.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Citations

  1. American Diabetes Association (2009). Medical management of hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes: A consensus algorithm for the initiation and adjustment of therapy. Diabetes Care, 32: 193–203.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJennifer Hone, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Last RevisedMay 2, 2012

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 02, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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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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