Taking an active role in your health is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. This includes trying to understand your diabetes meds. Most diabetes meds are needed to keep you blood sugar levels on target. High glucose levels can cause many health problems such as heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, nerve damage, eye disease, and many other complications. There are different classes of diabetes meds, and the way they are selected depends on the nature of the disease, the age, and the situation of the person.

The National Institutes of Health’s website, Nih.gov, provides a list of questions that you should ask your doctor concerning your medication. They include:

  1. What are the names of my medicine? What is the brand name? Is there a generic form?
  2. What does my medicine do?
  3. How long will this medicine take to work?
  4. At what times should I take my medicine?
  5. Should I take it before, with, or after a meal?
  6. Should I avoid any foods or medicines when I take it?
  7. Should I avoid alcoholic beverages when I take it?
  8. What should I do if I forget to take it?
  9. Can my diabetes medicine cause low blood sugar?
  10. 10.  What side effects can this medicine cause?


Diabetes Meds: Insulin


If your body does not make enough insulin, you have to take it medically. Insulin is used in all of the various types of diabetes, not just type-1, as some believe. Insulin cannot be taken in the form of a pill, because your digestive system will destroy it before it can work. Therefore, it must somehow be injected into the skin. The following items are used to inject insulin:

A needle and syringe: A syringe is a hollow tube with a plunger. Your dose is inserted into your skin. Some people use an insulin pen, which looks like an ink pen but has a needle for its point.

An insulin pump: This is a small machine that is about the size of a cell phone. It is worn outside of your body on a belt, in a pocket, or in a pouch. This pump connects to a small plastic tube and a very small needle which is inserted under the skin for several days. Insulin is pumped from the machine, through the tube, and into your body.

An insulin jet injector: A jet injector looks like a large pen. It sends a fine spray of insulin through the skin at high pressure. It can be used instead of a needle.

Insulin helps to control you glucose levels by moving your glucose from the blood into the body’s cells, the same way your natural insulin would. It does have side effects. It can cause too low of blood sugar and weight gain. Your doctor should discuss these side effects and how much insulin you should take with you upon prescribing. She should also discuss when to take the insulin. This will usually depend on your daily routine. Some people only need to take a single shot a day to reach their target glucose levels, where some need as many as four. The amount of insulin that you use will depend on your individual needs.

Types of insulin are categorized by the speed by which they work. Rapid-acting insulin, for example, starts to work right after you take it. Long-acting insulin works for many hours. The majority of people on insulin medications need various types to keep the blood sugar levels under control.


Diabetes Meds: Pills


A large part of diabetes treatment involves meal planning and physical activity. However, for many diabetics these types of treatments are not enough to keep blood glucose levels under control, so diabetes meds are prescribed. The majority of diabetes meds come in pill form. Each type works differently and many diabetics that two or three different kinds. In fact, many doctors prescribe these pills in various combinations. Diabetics usually begin taking one kind of pill, and if that does not help you keep your blood sugar within range, your physician may:

  • Change to another type of pill
  • Give you more of the same type of pill
  • Add another kind of pill
  • Prescribe you insulin
  • Prescribe another type of injected medication


Do not be alarmed. If your doctor changes your medications, it doesn’t mean your diabetes is getting worse. She is just trying to find what is best for you. Everyone is different and your medication is going to rely heavily on your daily routines, eating habits, activities, and other health conditions.