Many people are able to regulate their blood sugar levels through living a healthy, active lifestyle and eating fresh, whole foods. For others, however, lifestyle changes by themselves are not enough to sustain a normal blood sugar level and medication is needed. Fortunately, many drugs are available that can help manage high blood sugar. Healthcare providers will work with families to determine the best medication for each individual based on lifestyle, age, weight, and liver and kidney function. Based on each individual circumstance, a treatment plan that uses one or more medications, along with lifestyle changes, will be created.
One class of sugar-lowering medications, sulfonylureas, encourages the pancreas to produce much more insulin. These drugs are inexpensive and are usually very effective at lowering blood sugar levels. For someone suffering from an underactive pancreas, this medication can be the best option. Side affects of these drugs sometimes include bouts of hypoglycemia and this type of medication may cause excessive weight gain.
Another very popular blood-sugar medication is Metformin, which causes the liver to secrete less glucose than normal. Metformin also increases the muscles’ sensitivity to insulin. Metformin is a popular medication because it is effective at bringing down blood glucose without causing weight gain. Recent studies also show a correlation between the drug and a lower risk of heart attack and even some cancers. For many doctors, Metformin is the first drug offered to treat elevated blood sugar levels.
Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) are another class of drugs that help the muscles process and take in more glucose than normal, pulling it out of the blood stream and using it for energy. These drugs are also effective at lowering high blood sugar. While being highly effective medications, they are being prescribed with less frequency because of their connection to increased risk of heart failure and osteoporosis.
When drugs do not work on their own to decrease blood sugar levels, a combination therapy can be used. Two or more oral medications are used together to find a balance of medication that is effective and helpful. This type of treatment can be costly and also may increase risk of side affects.
When oral medications do not work, insulin is often prescribed. Insulin is the most well-known medication to use in reducing highly elevated blood glucose levels over a sustained period. Many oral medications help insulin do its job, so combining insulin with other pills may be more effective at lowering blood glucose levels than insulin alone.
The cost of treating high blood sugar with medication can vary based on the medication used to treat the condition as well as the type of health care coverage an individual has or does not have. Some medication prices vary by pharmacy. A patient generally can work with her doctor to find the most effective, lowest cost medication or dosages that fits into her budget and lifestyle.
When lifestyle changes simply are not enough to bring blood sugar levels down, there are several proven drug therapy options. However, the importance of a healthy lifestyle to any treatment regimen cannot be overstated. Lifestyle change may not be enough on its own to lower blood sugar. But, it is an integral part of a holistic health strategy.