Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Overview

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on September 11, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on September 11, 2014

Treating Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic health condition. High blood sugar caused by the disease can cause both short- and long-term health problems. However, many complications of diabetes can be prevented by good blood sugar control.

Treatments for type 2 diabetes focus on:

  • controlling blood sugar
  • achieving a healthy weight
  • improving activity levels

Both lifestyle changes and medical treatments can help you control your disease.

The Importance of Monitoring Blood Sugar

Monitoring blood sugar is an essential part of diabetes treatment. People with diabetes need to monitor and record their blood sugar on a regular basis.

Monitoring frequency varies. Some people need to check their sugars several times a week. Others need to check several times a day. Regular monitoring and review of your blood glucose levels over time helps you keep your blood sugar under control.

Factors that influence blood glucose levels include:

  • what you eat
  • how active you are
  • the medications you take
  • hormonal fluctuations
  • stress level

When you first start monitoring your blood sugar, you should track:

  • what you eat and when
  • how much you exercise and when
  • your blood sugar

The more information you have on your blood sugar and food intake, the better. Learning about your body helps you get your sugar under control. It teaches you how diet and exercise have direct effects on your health.

Lifestyle Changes for Type 2 Diabetes

Behavioral changes are a great way to control your diabetes. Eating a healthy diet and being physically active can improve symptoms and reduce complications. In some cases, lifestyle changes can eliminate the need to use medication.

Diet

People with diabetes should eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet rich in:

  • protein
  • vegetables
  • whole grains

They should avoid foods high in sugars. This includes some carbohydrates which are simply multiple sugars chemically bonded together.

If you have diabetes, you will also need to count carbohydrates as part of your diet. Carbohydrates, such as those found in bread, are easily converted to sugar. In general, you will want to eat meals that have consistent ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

One way to look at your diet is to monitor the glycemic index of the foods you eat. Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food will increase your blood sugar. Low glycemic index foods are better for blood sugar stability.

Exercise

Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise plan. Working out for 30 minutes most days of the week can help you control your sugar. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Ideally, your workout should contain both aerobic exercise and strength training.

Staying physically active is important. However, it is also necessary to monitor the effect of exercise on your blood sugar levels. If you are taking insulin, there is a risk of your blood sugar actually dropping to dangerously low levels.

Exercise transports glucose to cells, where it is turned into energy. Therefore, exercise heightens your body’s sensitivity to insulin.

Medications for Type 2 Diabetes

Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to manage the disease by eating healthfully and exercising. However others also require prescription medications to manage their blood sugar.

Metformin

Metformin is commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. This drug reduces glucose production in the liver.

Brand names for metformin include:

  • Glucophage
  • Glumetza
  • Fortamet
  • Riomet


Sometimes metformin isn’t enough to control your diabetes. In this case, you may be given additional drugs as well. These drugs work in various ways, including:

  • stimulating insulin production
  • changing carbohydrate metabolism
  • making cells more insulin-sensitive

Each of these drugs carries the risk of certain side effects. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of various options. Together, you can decide which treatment would be best for you. 

Insulin

Some people with type 2 diabetes need injections of insulin to control their blood sugar. Insulin is generally prescribed when the body can’t make enough insulin on its own.

There are various types of insulin. Different types work at different speeds. You may be given multiple types to use throughout the day.

Most people need to inject themselves with insulin multiple times a day. However, some people use an insulin pump instead. This device can automatically dispense insulin throughout the day. Levels can be adjusted as needed. 

Read more about blood sugar monitoring tools and strategies.

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