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Oral Medication for Diabetes: Are They Effective?

Fact-checked by Vincent Sales

Written by Shienna Santelices · Updated Feb 27, 2023

Oral Medication for Diabetes: Are They Effective?

Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a chronic and life-threatening health condition wherein the body produces an inadequate or no amount of insulin that will respond to the blood glucose (sugar). But, what is insulin? And what are the right oral medication for diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar that has been broken down by the body from most of the food intake.

When blood sugar increases, it will signal the pancreas to release insulin, which will shuttle the sugar from the bloodstream into the tissues that will produce energy in time. However, diabetic people do not have enough insulin to control the blood sugar, causing it to increase.

Diabetes Complications

This may lead to the development of other health complications, such as heart disease, vision loss, lower-limb amputations, and kidney disease. Furthermore, diabetes is the top cause of these complications and one of the leading causes of death. 

Different types of diabetes may develop at any age, and symptoms may vary from person to person and its types. Some people with Type 2 diabetes may not experience any symptoms at all. However, people with type 1 diabetes may experience symptoms that can quickly develop and get more severe.

Insulin Therapy, Oral Medication for Diabetes, and Other Treatments

oral medication for diabetes

Insulin therapy and oral medication, along with a healthy lifestyle, are the most common treatments for diabetes. These medications help in controlling the production of insulin and maintaining blood sugar levels. There is no definite cure for diabetes yet.

However, treatment/management options and preventions are available.

Insulin Injection

oral medication for diabetes

Insulin therapy aims to replace the insulin that the body does not produce through injection, pen, or pump.

This medication is unavailable in the form of a pill as the acids in your body destroy it before it even enters the bloodstream. There are five different types of insulin, varying depends on the duration of effectiveness and how long it will last on the body. 

All people with type 1 diabetes have insulin injection as the only option for controlling blood sugar levels. However, people with type 2 diabetes also need to take insulin injections when oral medications, exercises, and a healthy diet are not showing effects in maintaining the blood sugar level.

Oral Medication for Diabetes

An oral medication, or diabetes pills, helps the body to produce more insulin or improve insulin sensitivity and response. This type of medication is most effective with meal planning and exercise. Examples of oral diabetes medications include metformin and glibenclamide.

Currently, there is research being done on creating an oral form of insulin. This medication would work to improve blood sugar control and insulin levels, without the need for needle pricks.

Combination Therapy

In some cases, oral medications for diabetes are not enough or lose effectiveness. Some doctors initiate insulin monotherapy wherein the treatment will require insulin alone and will stop the oral medication.

In a later stage, oral agents may be taken alongside insulin if the blood sugar failed to achieve its average level. In the combination of insulin and oral medication, the insulin dosage may reduce and decrease the side effects due to insulin. However, other side effects of the oral agents might also occur.

Other treatment options also include bariatric surgery, artificial pancreas, and pancreatic islet transplantation. These are the less common treatments available when medicines are not enough to control the condition.

Bariatric surgery is an option for obese patients with diabetes, which can help them lose weight and decrease food intake. Because type 1 diabetes is caused by damaged or missing pancreas cells that produce insulin, some patients can benefit from a pancreas transplant or artificial pancreas.

Key Takeaways

Diabetes is a life-threatening health condition. It deals with increased blood sugar levels due to the insulin that the body does not produce or due to the body not working effectively.
Treatments are available to manage blood sugar levels and insulin. These include oral medication for diabetes, insulin shots, and transplant surgery. Without proper management, it increases the risk of developing other complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and vision loss.

Learn more about Diabetes, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Fact-checked by

Vincent Sales

Written by Shienna Santelices · Updated Feb 27, 2023

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