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Diabetes Medicines

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, too much glucose stays in your blood.

What are the treatments for diabetes?

Treatments for diabetes depend on the type. Common treatments include a diabetic meal plan, regular physical activity, and medicines. Some less common treatments are weight loss surgery for either type and an artificial pancreas or pancreatic islet transplantation for some people with type 1 diabetes.

Who needs diabetes medicines?

People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin to control their blood sugar.

Some people with type 2 diabetes can control their blood sugar with healthy food choices and physical activity. But for others, a diabetic meal plan and physical activity are not enough. They need to take diabetes medicines.

The kind of medicine you take depends on your type of diabetes, daily schedule, medicine costs, and other health conditions.

What are the types of medicines for type 1 diabetes?

If you have type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin because your body no longer makes it. Different types of insulin start to work at different speeds, and the effects of each last a different length of time. You may need to use more than one type.

You can take insulin several different ways. The most common are with a needle and syringe, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump. If you use a needle and syringe or a pen, you have to take insulin several times during the day, including with meals. An insulin pump gives you small, steady doses throughout the day. Less common ways to take insulin include Inhalers, injection ports, and jet injectors.

In rare cases, taking insulin alone might not be enough to manage your blood sugar. Then you would need to take another diabetes medicine.

What are the types of medicines for type 2 diabetes?

There are several different medicines for type 2 diabetes. Each works in a different way. Many diabetes medicines are pills. There are also medicines that you inject under your skin, such as insulin.

Over time, you may need more than one diabetes medicine to manage your blood sugar. You might add another diabetes medicine or switch to a combination medicine. A combination medicine is a pill than contains more than one type of diabetes medicine. Some people with type 2 diabetes take both pills and insulin.

Even if you don't usually take insulin, you may need it at special times, such as during pregnancy or if you are in the hospital.

What else should I know about taking medicines for diabetes?

Even if you take medicines for diabetes, you still need to eat a healthy diet and do regular physical activity. These will help you manage your diabetes.

It is important to make sure that you understand your diabetes treatment plan. Talk to your provider about:

  • What your target blood sugar level is
  • What to do if your blood sugar gets too low or too high
  • Whether your diabetes medicines will affect other medicines you take
  • Any side effects you have from the diabetes medicines

You should not change or stop your diabetes medicines on your own. Talk to your provider first.

Some people who take diabetes medicines may need medicines for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other conditions. This may help you avoid or control any complications of diabetes.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetic Diet

What is diabetes?

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from foods you eat. The cells of your body need glucose for energy. A hormone called insulin helps the glucose get into your cells.

With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn't make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in your blood and causes high blood sugar levels.

Prediabetes means that your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. If you have prediabetes, you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

How do the foods I eat affect my blood sugar levels?

The sugar in your blood comes from certain foods called carbohydrates, or "carbs." Foods that are high in carbs include candy and sweets, sodas, breads, tortillas, and white rice. The more carbs you eat, the higher your blood sugar level will be.

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, making the right food choices is an important way to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. When you control your blood sugar, you lower your chance of having serious health problems from diabetes, such as vision loss and heart problems.

And if you have prediabetes or are at risk for diabetes, eating foods that keep your blood sugar levels healthy may help prevent type 2 diabetes later on.

What's the best diet for diabetes?

There isn't a specific diet or meal plan that works for everybody. Your health care provider may have you see a registered dietician (RD) or a diabetes educator who can help design the best eating plan for you. The plan will consider:

  • Any medicines that you take
  • Your weight
  • Any other health conditions you have
  • Your lifestyle and tastes
  • Your goals

All eating plans for diabetes have a few things in common, including eating the right foods in the right amounts at the right times.

What foods should I eat if I have diabetes?

Eating the right foods for diabetes means eating a variety of healthy foods from all the food groups:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains, such as whole wheat, brown rice, barley, quinoa, and oats
  • Proteins, such as lean meats, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, and tofu
  • Nonfat or low-fat dairy, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
What foods should I limit to control my blood sugar?

To keep your blood sugar under control, you may need to cut back on foods and drinks that are high in carbs. This doesn't mean that you can never enjoy them. But you will need to have them less often or in smaller amounts.

The high-carb foods and drinks you should limit include:

  • Sugary foods, such as candy, cookies, cake, ice cream, sweetened cereals, and canned fruits with added sugar
  • Drinks with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks
  • White rice, tortillas, breads and pasta - especially those made with white flour
  • Starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, corn, and peas

You may also need to limit how much alcohol you drink, as well as how much fat and salt you eat.

What else do I need to know about diabetic diets?

If you have diabetes, it's important to eat the right amount of food every day. Your eating plan will include how much to eat, so that you get the right amount of carbs in each meal or snack. You'll learn how to count carbs and measure your food.

Eating at the right times is also important. You will want to plan for regular, balanced meals to avoid high or low blood sugar levels. Eating about the same amount of carbs at each meal can be helpful.

Your eating plan will also teach you how to stick with your plan at home and when you eat out.

Eating healthy to control your blood sugar does take some effort. But the reward is a chance to live your healthiest life with diabetes.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetic Foot

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, this can damage your nerves or blood vessels. Nerve damage from diabetes can cause you to lose feeling in your feet. You may not feel a cut, a blister or a sore. Foot injuries such as these can cause ulcers and infections. Serious cases may even lead to amputation. Damage to the blood vessels can also mean that your feet do not get enough blood and oxygen. It is harder for your foot to heal, if you do get a sore or infection.

You can help avoid foot problems. First, control your blood sugar levels. Good foot hygiene is also crucial:

  • Check your feet every day
  • Wash your feet every day
  • Keep the skin soft and smooth
  • Smooth corns and calluses gently
  • If you can see, reach, and feel your feet, trim your toenails regularly. If you cannot, ask a foot doctor (podiatrist) to trim them for you.
  • Wear shoes and socks at all times
  • Protect your feet from hot and cold
  • Keep the blood flowing to your feet

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diabetic Nerve Problems

If you have diabetes, your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Over time, this can damage the covering on your nerves or the blood vessels that bring oxygen to your nerves. Damaged nerves may stop sending messages, or may send messages slowly or at the wrong times.

This damage is called diabetic neuropathy. Over half of people with diabetes get it. Symptoms may include:

  • Numbness in your hands, legs, or feet
  • Shooting pains, burning, or tingling
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Urinary problems
  • Dizziness when you change positions quickly

Your doctor will diagnose diabetic neuropathy with a physical exam and nerve tests. Controlling your blood sugar can help prevent nerve problems, or keep them from getting worse. Treatment may include pain relief and other medicines.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Medical Ethics

The field of ethics studies principles of right and wrong. There is hardly an area in medicine that doesn't have an ethical aspect. For example, there are ethical issues relating to :

  • End of life care: Should a patient receive nutrition? What about advance directives and resuscitation orders?
  • Abortion: When does life begin? Is it ethical to terminate a pregnancy with a birth defect?
  • Genetic and prenatal testing: What happens if you are a carrier of a defect? What if testing shows that your unborn baby has a defect?
  • Birth control: Should it be available to minors?
  • Is it ethical to harvest embryonic stem cells to treat diseases?
  • Organ donation: Must a relative donate an organ to a sick relative?
  • Your personal health information: who has access to your records?
  • Patient rights: Do you have the right to refuse treatment?
  • When you talk with your doctor, is it ethical for her to withhold information from you or your family?