Medications & Taking Pills For Diabetes

By Canadian Diabetes Care Guide posted in Healthy Living
Updated

Taking pills for diabetes

Diabetes pills are prescribed when physical activity and meal planning are no longer able to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range. It is very important to remember that even if pills are prescribed for you, meal planning and physical activity remain an important part of your diabetes management.

Generally, diabetes pills are divided into two groups:

  • medications that increase the amount of insulin in the body;
  • medications that help existing insulin work better.

Your blood glucose results will help your physician decide when medications are required, and what type of medication will work best for you. Different medications are meant to be taken at specific times to have the best effect – ask your pharmacist or another member of your diabetes team what time you should take each medication.

Mind your medications

Diabetes pills may cause problems with other medications you are taking. Check with your pharmacist or doctor.

Monitor your blood glucose level carefully to make sure your pills are working effectively.

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If you are prescribed a pill that can increase the amount of insulin in your body, ask your diabetes educator about the prevention, signs and symptoms and treatment of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). For more information on insulin, see right.

Drinking alcohol when taking diabetes pills may affect your diabetes control. Discuss alcohol limits with your physician. Some diabetes pills can make your skin more sun sensitive. Check with your pharmacist.

Things you should know about insulin

Although pills are often the first choice when medications are required, insulin is quickly gaining favour as an effective treatment early in the management of type 2 diabetes, not just type 1. Sometimes it is prescribed with pills also.

Prior to being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your pancreas produced just enough insulin to match the rise in your blood glucose at each meal, and meet your needs between meals and overnight. Now your body produces insulin, but there is not quite enough, or the insulin you do have is not working very well.

There are many types of insulin available giving one greater flexibility in the timing and number of injections needed. One to four or more injections may be suggested to achieve the target blood glucose level. Insulin is prescribed according to your lifestyle, taking into consideration your eating patterns and activity level. Talk to your diabetes care team about what insulin plan best suits your needs.

Buying insulin

  • Before you leave your pharmacist’s counter, check to be sure that your insulin is the one prescribed for you.
  • If you notice white particles in the insulin that do not dissolve, return it to your pharmacist.
  • Use a new cartridge or vial. Remember; always check the expiration date to be sure you can finish using it in time. Out of date insulin can lose its strength.

Measuring insulin

  • Insulin is measured in UNITS.
  • An insulin pen is a convenient and easy way to take your insulin. Just dial up your dose and deliver it by pressing a button. If you think an insulin pen might work for you, talk to your diabetes team.
  • The most common cartridge for an insulin pen holds 3 ml or 300 units.

Injecting insulin

For best results, inject insulin into the fat layer just under your skin. If the insulin is injected into the muscle, it gets absorbed into the blood stream too fast. The abdomen is the best site. The upper arm, outer upper thigh, and buttocks are acceptable sites with slower absorption rates.

Storing insulin

  • Refrigerate unopened insulin.
  • Opened cartridges can be kept
    at room temperature for 30 days.
    Check your expiry date on the
    insulin cartridge before every use.
  • Never let insulin freeze or get warmer than room temperature. If you have questions ask your health care team. They are there to assist you.

TIP: Being on insulin means you could accidentally have too much in your body. This “insulin overdose” could lead to low blood glucose. Carry a form of fast acting glucose (preferably glucose tablets) at all times and wear your MedicAlert ID.

About the Author

The Canadian Diabetes Care Guide's articles are written by Diabetes Professionals for people with diabetes. We provide information about diabetes, diabetes health care providers, complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes and tools to manage their condition. Our mission is to help people with diabetes stay healthy and successfully manage their diabetes.