Treatments for Diabetes

Treatment for diabetes depends on the type of diabetes a person may have. Your healthcare professional will prescribe what is best for you. 

There are 2 main types of treatments; insulin therapy and medications. Each type has sub-types that react differently to what a person will need.

Medications for Diabetes Mellitus

There are many Type 2 diabetes treatment medications. These are commonly called oral antidiabetic drugs (OADs). Below is a list of common medicines, how they work and possible side effects. 

  • Metformin – Often first line therapy. Improves sensitivity of body tissues to insulin causing the body to better utilize insulin. Possible side effects: nausea and diarrhea.

  • Sulfonylureas (glipizide and glimepiride) - Help the body to secrete more insulin. Possible side effects: hypoglycemia and weight gain.

  • Meglitinides (repaglinide and nateglinide) - Stimulate pancreas to secrete more insulin. Possible side effects: Hypoglycemia (less likely than sulfonylureas) and weight gain.

  • Thiazolidinediones (rosiglitazone and pioglitazone) - Similar to Metformin – make body’s tissues more sensitive to insulin. Possible side effects: weight gain, increased risk for heart failure and fractures.

  • DPP-4 inhibitors (sitagliptin, saxagliptin and linagliptin) - Modest effect on lowering blood glucose levels. Potential side effects: upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, other infections and headache.

  • GLP-1 receptor agonists (exenatide and liraglutide) - Slows digestion while helping to lower blood glucose levels. Potential side effects: Weight loss, nausea and pancreatitis.

  • SGLT2 inhibitors (canagliflozin and dapaliflozin) - Prevent kidneys from reabsorbing blood glucose into the blood. Blood glucose is excreted in the urine. Potential side effects: yeast infections, urinary tract infections, increased urination and hypotension.

Managing your diet, exercise and medications help lead to a healthy life. Work with your healthcare provider to decide which therapy is best for you. 

Insulin Therapy

There are many types of insulin therapies available. Each person has their individualized need and even those needs can change over time. The type of insulin varies depending on onset of action, when the peak action takes place and the duration of the insulin. Your healthcare provider will prescribe what is best for you. 

Insulin can have possible side effects, even though it is a hormone your body naturally makes. Possible side effects may include weight gain, redness or swelling at the injection site, or low blood sugars if too much insulin is taken.

It's important to monitor your blood sugar levels as your healthcare provider recommends. Remember that managing a healthy balance includes diet, exercise and your medications. 


There are multiple complications that can develop gradually if you have diabetes. It is important to be aware of any changes in your body. Among these complications are:

  • Hyperglycemia 

  • Hypoglycemia

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Neuropathy (nerve damage)

  • Nephropathy (kidney damage)

  • Retinopathy (eye damage)

  • Foot damage

  • Skin conditions

  • Hearing impaired

  • Alzheimer’s disease