Exactly how diabetes is treated depends on a number of factors: which type the patient has, how severe it is, the age of the patient and others.
Gestational diabetes, for example, that sometimes afflicts pregnant women at around 6-7 months into the pregnancy, may disappear after birth. Treatment may be as mild as doing nothing to additional diet management. Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is currently incurable and typically requires lifelong insulin shots.
But there are other forms of treatment, many of them amounting virtually or literally to self-care.
On the more extensive end of treatments there are a variety of drugs used apart from insulin.
Sulfonylureas, for example (such as Glucotrol® and Micronase®) help the body make insulin. That’s helpful for Type 1 diabetes patients who produce too little. Biguanides, on the other hand (such as Glucophage®), aid in using insulin more efficiently, the common characteristic of Type 2 diabetes. Thiazolidinediones (like Avandia®) help make cells more sensitive to insulin, again useful in treating Type 2.
Other drugs work on glucose levels. Meglitinides (such as Prandin®) help control the blood sugar level after eating. Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors (like Precose®) slow down the absorption of sugars in the digestive tract.
All of these treatment options, and any others, will naturally involve careful monitoring of blood glucose level by use of one or more methods. Once that’s known, the patient and his or her physician can focus on a particular category of treatment and/or self care.
In some cases, particularly those involving Type 2 diabetes, adjustment of the diet and an appropriate exercise regimen may be enough to control the disease without drugs. This is particularly true for those who suffer from elevated glucose levels with a condition called pre-diabetes.
There is a strong correlation between obesity and Type 2 diabetes, especially for those who tend to carry the excess weight mostly around the waist. For those, simply losing weight may be enough to bring the condition to the point that no drug treatments are necessary.
Many factors play into such a lifestyle adjustment and they tend to have other beneficial effects. Careful control of the amount and type of carbohydrates, adjustment of alcohol intake and other dietary changes aid in reducing cardiovascular problems of many types, including heart attack and stroke.
Physical exercise lowers blood sugar levels, having a direct effect on the condition. But exercise also helps the body’s immune system along with having other positive benefits. That helps reduce the odds of subsidiary problems produced by diabetes. Stress, in particular, can produce changes that affect how hormones, including insulin, are used by the body. Exercise and an overall attitude adjustment can bring that under control.
If insulin becomes necessary, there are other forms apart from traditional injections. Oral insulin is now in widespread use. Insulin inhalers have recently been approved by the FDA for treatment of diabetes. An insulin pump, which injects the appropriate amount automatically as needed, may be appropriate for some patients.
The only way to know which treatment is best in a given circumstance is to be tested and diagnosed by a physician. Seek early diagnosis and treatment if you suspect you may have diabetes. That will provide the most, and the least objectionable, options for long term care.