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Patient education: Treatment for type 2 diabetes (The Basics)

Patient education: Treatment for type 2 diabetes (The Basics)

What are the goals of type 2 diabetes treatment? — The goals of treatment for type 2 diabetes are:

To keep your blood sugar under control

To prevent future health problems that can happen in people with diabetes

How is type 2 diabetes treated? — Type 2 diabetes can be treated with:

Diet changes

Lifestyle changes


Your doctor or nurse will work with you to make a treatment plan that is right for you.

What diet and lifestyle changes might be part of my treatment? — As part of your treatment, your doctor or nurse might recommend that you:

Eat healthy foods

Lose weight if you are overweight

Get plenty of physical activity

Not smoke

Making these lifestyle changes is as important as taking your medicines. They will also help improve your overall health.

What medicines are used to treat type 2 diabetes? — Different medicines can be used to treat type 2 diabetes. The first medicine that most people with type 2 diabetes take is a pill called metformin (brand name: Glucophage).

How do I know if my treatment is working? — Your doctor can do a blood test called an "A1C." This test shows what your blood sugar level has been over the past 2 to 3 months.

Another way to know if your treatment is working is to check your blood sugar level yourself. Many people with type 2 diabetes do not need to do this, but some do. It involves using a device called a "blood glucose monitor." If your doctor recommends doing this, they will explain how and when to use the device.

What if my blood sugar level is still higher than normal? — If your blood sugar level is still higher than normal after taking metformin for 2 to 3 months, your doctor might increase your dose. If you are already taking the highest possible dose, your doctor might suggest adding a second medicine.

Which second medicine will I take? — There are different medicines your doctor can prescribe. The second medicine could be another pill you take every day, or a shot you give yourself once a day or once a week. The choice will depend on different things, including how high your blood sugar is, your weight, your other health problems, and whether you are comfortable giving yourself a shot.

A few of these medicines can cause low blood sugar as a side effect. Symptoms of low blood sugar can include:

Sweating and shaking

Feeling hungry

Feeling worried

Low blood sugar should be treated quickly because it can cause you to pass out. Your doctor or nurse will tell you ahead of time if your medicine can cause low blood sugar and how to treat it.

What is insulin? — Insulin is a hormone that is normally made by the pancreas, an organ in the belly. It helps sugar get into your body's cells. In most people with type 2 diabetes, the body does not respond to insulin normally. Then, over time, the pancreas stops making enough insulin.

Most people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar with healthy eating, physical activity, and medicines. Some people need to take insulin as part of their treatment plan.

Insulin might be prescribed as a second medicine, or as the only medicine. It usually comes in the form of a shot that people give themselves (figure 1).

If your doctor prescribes insulin, they will tell you:

Which type of insulin to use – There are different types of insulin. Some types work faster or last longer than others.

How much insulin to use

When to use it

How to give yourself the shot

When to check your blood sugar level

How to avoid low blood sugar

If you take insulin, your dose will need to change if you get sick, have surgery, travel, or eat out. Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about when and how to change your dose.

What other treatments might I need? — Sometimes, people with type 2 diabetes need medicines to treat or prevent other health problems. For example, if you have high blood pressure, you might take medicine to lower your blood pressure. This can reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

When should I see my doctor or nurse? — Most people with diabetes see their doctor or nurse every 3 or 4 months. During these visits, they will talk with you about your medicines and blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar levels are not where they should be, your doctor or nurse might make changes to your treatment plan.

Taking care of diabetes can be hard, and some people feel sad, stressed, or anxious. Let your doctor or nurse know if you are struggling so they can help.

More on this topic

Patient education: The ABCs of diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Hemoglobin A1C tests (The Basics)
Patient education: Using insulin (The Basics)
Patient education: Low blood sugar in people with diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Weight loss treatments (The Basics)
Patient education: Quitting smoking (The Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure in adults (The Basics)

Patient education: Type 2 diabetes: Insulin treatment (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes: Treatment (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Blood glucose monitoring in diabetes (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes and diet (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Type 2 diabetes: Alcohol, exercise, and medical care (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 01, 2023.
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