Anti-diabetic refers to drugs that are used to help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolic process – the process by which the body breaks down food. The disorder is broken down into two distinct types: Type I diabetes and Type II diabetes.
People with Type I diabetes are unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. Type II diabetics produce insulin, but their cells do not properly respond to it. In both cases, the end result is high levels of glucose in the body, which can lead to serious medical complications. Anti-diabetic drugs are used as treatment for patients with both Type I and Type II diabetes.
Because Type I diabetics do not naturally produce enough insulin, they must ingest it daily. Insulin cannot be taken as a pill because stomach acids would destroy the insulin before it could prove effective. Therefore, insulin must be taken either via injections or using an insulin pump. An insulin pump is a medical device that uses a catheter to administer insulin to the patient consistently throughout the day. More and more patients are choosing the pump for its convenience and accuracy.
Type II diabetics do produce insulin, so it is usually not necessary for these patients to take insulin injections or use a pump. There are several oral anti-diabetic medications available to treat Type II diabetes. Each of these medications works to lower blood sugar in a different way, and all are only available with a doctor's prescription. None of these drugs are a cure for diabetes, only a way to help regulate the disease and help prevent further medical complications.
There are four types of oral anti-diabetic drugs: sulfonylureas, biguanides, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, and thiazolidinediones. Physicians typically will decide which drug will best fit each patient's needs. Some patients may require a combination of drugs. It typically is important for diabetic patients to visit their physicians regularly to make sure the treatment is working, with dosage adjustments if necessary. Side effects of these drugs, such as dizziness and nausea, usually go away as the body adjusts to the medication.
In order for anti-diabetic medications to be effective, doses must be carefully balanced with meals and daily exercise. Many diabetics work closely with doctors and other health care professionals, such as dietitians, to help achieve this balance. It is also vital that patients with diabetes regularly test their blood sugar levels.