You feel just fine, but your doctor has prescribed one or more medicines. So why do you need to take them? Read on to find out how medicines your doctor may have prescribed for your type 2 diabetes can help you and how you will know that they are working. (Keep in mind that the types of medicines described below are common examples and not a complete list. Your Pharmacist can answer specific questions about these and other medicines you may be taking.)
Why they are prescribed and how they help: Some people with diabetes are prescribed a variety of medicines to control or lower blood sugar. Control of blood sugar keeps you healthy and avoids serious health problems. Having high blood sugar over a long period of time increases your risk of health problems such as heart attack, stroke, diabetic eye disease, and kidney disease. By keeping your blood sugar at the recommended level, you can reduce the chance of having these problems.
Names and types: There are a variety of oral and injectable medicines available, some examples might include Biguanides: Metformin (Glucophage®, Glumetza®, Riomet®). Sulfonylureas: Glimepiride (Amaryl®), Glipizide (Glucotrol®), Glyburide (Micronase®). Thiazolidinediones: Pioglitazone (Actos®). DPP4 Inhibitors: Sitagliptin (Januvia®). GLP-1 receptor agonist: Liraglutide (Victoza®), Exenatide (Byetta®). Many people with diabetes also take insulin, which comes in various forms.
How you can tell if they are helping: Your doctor will do an A1C lab test every 3 – 6 months to check your blood sugar levels over time. A1C lab tests are how doctors check to see if your blood sugar is in good control. Most diabetes medicines can lower A1C level by about 1 point. If A1C is still high after taking a blood sugar medicine, some people will take a second blood sugar medicine. Some people also use a blood glucose monitor to check their blood sugar more frequently.
Because people with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, doctors pay close attention to their cholesterol and blood pressure, in addition to blood sugar. That’s why most people with diabetes are prescribed cholesterol and blood pressure medicines.
Why they are prescribed and how they help: People with diabetes have an increased chance of having high “bad” cholesterol, also called LDL cholesterol. Bad cholesterol can clog arteries and cause inflammation (or swelling) in the blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Cholesterol medicines lower “bad” cholesterol and reduce these risks.
Names and types: Some examples might include HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitors (Statins): Simvastatin (Zocor®), Atorvastatin (Lipitor®), Pravastatin (Pravachol®).
How you can tell if they are helping: After you have been taking cholesterol medicines for approximately 4 weeks, your doctor will do a blood test to check your levels and monitor your liver function.
Why they are prescribed and how they help: Most adults with type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage. Different blood pressure medicines work in different ways, but they all work to maintain your blood pressure at an optimal level.
Names and types: Some examples might include Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors: Lisinopril (Zestril®), Quinapril (Accupril®). Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs): Irbesartan (Avapro®), Losartan (Cozaar®). Diuretics (water pills): Furosemide (Lasix®), Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide®). Calcium Channel Blockers: Amlodipine (Norvasc®), Diltiazem (Cardizem®). Beta Blockers: Atenolol (Tenormin®), Metoprolol (Toprol-XL®).
How you can tell if they are helping: Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure at routine office visits to determine if the medicine you were prescribed is keeping your blood pressure in the desired range. You may also be asked to check your blood pressure in between visits and tell your doctor about any readings that are too high, so your doctor can make any necessary changes to your medicine.
Why it is sometimes recommended and how it helps: Aspirin is recommended if you have type 2 diabetes and specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of heart disease, or if you smoke. Aspirin may reduce your chance of having a heart attack or stroke by preventing blood clots from forming in your arteries.
Names and types: Some examples might include Aspirin (Bayer®, Bufferin®)
Still, have questions about your medicines? Bring your questions to your Rite Aid Pharmacist or talk to your doctor.
Medicines for Type 2 Diabetes: A Review of the Research for Adults, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/index.cfm/search-for-guides-reviews-and-reports/?pageaction=displayproduct&productID=721
Diabetes Medications, Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/diabetesmedicines.html
Type 2 Diabetes: Self-care, Medline Plus, National Institutes of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000328.htm
American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes - 2014. Diabetes Care. 2014;37 Suppl 1:S14-S80.