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Diabetes treatment options

Posted by Eamonn Brady on


Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy, Pearse St, Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to

Last week I discussed types, symptoms, risks and complications of diabetes; this week I summarise treatment options.


Diabetes treatment

Aim of treatment

The aim of diabetes treatment is to do what your body once did automatically which is to mimic the insulin pattern you had before diabetes and to keep blood sugar under control.


Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes but it can be kept under control. Type 1 diabetes is controlled by giving your body insulin. This allows glucose to be absorbed into cells and converted into energy, stopping it building up in the blood.


You may use one or more types of insulin depending on the control required. You may be on a combination of slow, medium and fast acting insulin. Modern insulin such as Lantus® provide far better control than older types, meaning less injections and less chance of hypoglycaemic attacks (ie) dangerous low blood sugar.


There are two main methods of taking insulin.

  • Insulin injections are the most common form of treatment, where insulin administration is by subcutaneous injection which means injecting under the skin (usually in the stomach). You will usually give these to yourself two to four times a day, using a pen-type syringe with refillable cartridges.
  • Portable insulin pumps may be used if control of blood glucose with regular injections is difficult. Insulin pumps can be programmed to inject insulin at a rate that you can control.


Treatment of type 2 diabetes

Many people with type 2 diabetes can manage to control their condition simply by changing their lifestyle (eg) managing diet better, more exercise.



If lifestyle changes alone don't reduce your glucose levels, you may be prescribed medicines to increase insulin production and strengthen its effect.


Examples include:

  • Metformin improves the effectiveness of insulin by reducing the amount of glucose released from the liver and improving the way glucose is used by muscles. It causes less weight gain than other diabetic medication.
  • Sulphonylureas encourage your pancreas to produce more insulin, and include gliclazide (Diamicron).
  • DPP-4 inhibitors, such as sitagliptin (Januvia), help your body to produce more insulin in response to meals. They don't cause weight gain and only rarely cause hypos (low blood sugar). They are usually used in combination with metformin or sulphonylureas.
  • Thiazolidine-diones reduce body's resistance to insulin and are sometimes used with metformin and sulphonylureas if other standard treatments aren't working or aren't tolerated. An example is pioglitazone (Actos). They are used less often nowadays due to increased risk of heart problems. Rosiglitazone (Avandia) was taken off the market a few years ago due to heart risk.
  • Acarbose (Glucobay) lowers blood glucose by slowing the breakdown of some carbohydrates. It is rarely used nowadays due to gastrointestinal side effects such as flatulence, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain.


Two or more of the medicines listed here can be given in combination as they may give better control than one on its own. All diabetics, regardless of means, are entitled to all medication related to diabetes for free in Ireland under the Long Term Illness Scheme (including heart related meds)


Free Diabetes Talk and information event

Whelehans Pharmacy is hosting a free talk on Diabetes on Thursday May 30th at 7pm in the Greville Arms Hotel. Pharmacist Eamonn Brady will speak about the medication used with Diabetes while experts including local HSE dieticians, eye screening specialists and other professionals will discuss diabetes management as well as experts from Diabetes Ireland. There will be free foot checks, diabetes checks and alot more. This is expected to be a popular event so we advise booking in advance by calling Whelehans at 04493 34591 or e-mail info@whelehans or message us on facebook.


Free Diabetes Test

Whelehans provide free Diabetes checks in store, no appointment is needed so simply call in for your two minute simple finger prick glucose test today (or any day) for your quick and free check.


To be week I will discuss more about diabetes


Disclaimer: Consult your healthcare professional before making any changes recommended. Whelehans Diabetes Check is not a substitute for your full assessment by your GP

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