For a thousand years diabetes medicine was herbs and starvation as people tried to control the disease. Some of their discoveries are still used today. You can find them among the antioxidants, herbals and superfoods listed on this site.
But none of them really cured diabetes, so the outlook for a diabetic was bleak. Then insulin was discovered less than 100 years ago and changed diabetes medicine.
Today type 1 diabetics take insulin several times a day, and many type 2 diabetics do too. Insulin is a life saver.
Right now almost everyone who takes insulin has to use needles. It is a fact of life in diabetes medicine. Most of us use several needles a day.
There is no insulin pill because digestion destroys insulin, but there is an insulin pump that can be worn on your skin.
A patch with a tiny needle is applied to the skin of your stomach, thigh or arm with tape to hold the needle in place.
The insulin pump is nice because the needle can be worn for three days before it is changed, instead of insulin shots three times a day.
Diabetes medicine companies tried to get us to use nasal insulin, but for some reason it didn't become popular.
Now they are testing insulin in this aerosol form on Alzheimer's patients and trying to understand why it improves their memory.
Until a better way to take insulin is accepted, needles are something type 2 diabetics have to deal with, because as diabetic insulin supplies, insulin pumps are not usually approved by insurance.
Not all type 1 diabetics have them yet either. They are expensive and don't always work as well as they are supposed to.
But they are getting better every year.
Most of us inject insulin with single-use needles or injection pens that come loaded with insulin. The pens are nice because you can turn a knob and inject the right amount each time.
There are four basic types of insulin classified by the time each one takes to become active. They range from super fast (less than 30 minutes) to 24 hours.The page on insulin has more information about the different kinds.
Times have changed from the days of huge needles that had to be boiled after each use. The needles we use these days are as thin as wire and are meant to be used only once.
The needles are very short since insulin is injected into the fat layer just under the skin. The usual injection site is around the stomach, and it very seldom hurts at all.
Your insulin supplies need to include some way to dispose of these throw-away needles. They are considered hazardous waste.
Your pharmacy will have information on how to dispose of them properly as well as containers made for that purpose. I use a BD SafeClip that clips off and stores up to 1,500 needles. It makes the syringes harmless.
The face of diabetic medicine has changed a lot in just a few years. When I was first diagnosed my doctor prescribed two different medications in combination to keep my blood sugar under control.
This was the standard procedure for every new type 2 diabetic. Over time the prescriptions were changed as new types came out that worked better.
To understand diabetic medicine it helps to understand type 2 diabetes. It is a disease with at least two possible causes. One is an over-reacting pancreas, which is why hypoglycemia is used as a warning sign of prediabetes.
Too much insulin is as bad as too little for causing problems, and a worn-out pancreas from pumping out insulin leads to unresponsive beta cells. So sugar builds up in the blood, and it's the start of type 2 diabetes.
Another problem is insulin resistance, the lack of normal response of cells to the insulin enzyme. If your cells resist insulin, sugar builds up in your blood.
Your pancreas is signaled to send more insulin. The cells refuse it again, and this cycle leads again to worn out pancreatic beta cells.
Here is something you need to know. There is a kind of type 1 diabetes, called LADA, where the beta cells are being slowly and systematically destroyed by the diabetic's own T-cells, the ones that are supposed to attack foreign bodies and kill them.
This adult onset type 1 diabetes needs to be diagnosed because it is not going to be helped by oral medications. These are type 1 diabetics and need to be on insulin therapy.
One group of oral medications improves insulin resistance. Two other groups stimulate the pancreas to make more insulin.
Every medication tries to correct the hormone imbalances of type 2 diabetes in some way. Use the link above to find out more about them.
But all diabetes medicine has side effects from upset stomach, weight gain and fluid retention to more serious things like liver failure, kidney problems and heart diseases.
Then a new kind of diabetes medicine came on the market. It mimics the inulin hormone that lower blood sugar, and it is taken by injection twice a day.
I tried it for a while in the form of Byetta, but being new it was expensive, and my results were not impressive on blood sugar tests.
I lost a little weight because one of its side effects is a low grade nausea all the time. But since it can lead to acute pancreatitis, I decided to stop taking it.
There's a new injectable hormone that's being tried because it works along side insulin, but it isn't on the market yet, and it has side effects too.
Often a long term type 2 diabetic finds that diabetes medicine in pill form does not keep the hemoglobin A1C in a good range any more. Sometimes after a few years with type 2 diabetes, too many beta cells are damaged, and we need to inject insulin.
The other diabetes medicines depend on your pancreas being able to make insulin. They lose their effectiveness if you are not making enough.
And other things happen that you have no control over, things like Lyme disease, viral illness that damages the pancreas, thyroid disease or hepatitis. These can derail your diabetic control, and when they do, insulin is there.
Having to start insulin made me feel like a failure, but after a few years on it I've seen improvement in my diabetic complications. With insulin you must test blood sugar more often, and that leads to the tighter control that slows down complications.
It also helps to have a goal in life that has nothing to do with diabetes. It will keep you from the overwhelming stress that comes from fighting with a chronic condition.
There is always hope.
[Go back to the top.]Return to the home page for a diabetic life from diabetes medicine.
Here are 8 foods that fight chronic pain. They help the nerve pain and neuropathy we diabetics live with every day.
Diabetes, Alzheimer's and exercise are linked by new research that shows the benefits of exercise in slowing cognitive loss from Alzheimer dementia in type 2 diabetics.
Insulin is a lifesaver. Here's where it came from and how it works today.
Diabetic medicine from the first oral medications to the newest ones being developed are found here with their effects, good and bad.
Exercise is probably the best medicine for a type 2 diabetic. It can end insulin resistance, something no manmade medication can do.
Diabetic tests are an ongoing part of your type 2 diabetic treatment. Do you know what they are for and why you are required to get them?
Misdiagnosing type 2 diabetes leads to serious consequences. An adult onset type 1 diabetic on oral medications is not getting proper care. Here's information on LADA.