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Diabetes treatments

The treatment needed for diabetes will depend on the type of diabetes a person has and whether their body still produces some insulin.

Diabetes is usually a life-long condition, needing treatment with diet and exercise, medication and/or insulin injections.

For some people with type 2 diabetes, taking more exercise and managing their diet is enough to control their blood sugar levels. Others will need medication to help the pancreas produce more insulin or to better manage blood glucose levels.

People with type 1 diabetes can't produce any insulin, so need regular insulin injections. Some people with type 2 diabetes may also need insulin injections.

For gestational diabetes during pregnancy, diet and exercise may be enough to manage blood sugar for some women, while others may need medication too.

Diabetes treatment goals

The goals of managing diabetes are to:

  • Keep your blood sugar levels as near to normal as possible by balancing food intake with diabetes medication and physical activity.
  • Manage cholesterol levels with a healthy diet and cholesterol medication if recommended.
  • Manage blood pressure. People with diabetes may be set tighter blood pressure targets because of the increased risk to heart health.

Lifestyle is also important in managing diabetes by:

  • Planning what you eat and following a balanced meal and snack plan to avoid blood sugar swings
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking medication, if recommended, and closely following the guidelines on how and when to take it
  • Monitoring your blood glucose and blood pressure levels at home
  • Keeping your appointments with diabetes doctors and nurses, and making sure you go for the tests they recommend, such as regular HbA1c tests.
  • If recommended, use home blood glucose monitoring equipment to keep an eye on levels between medical appointments.

Type 1 diabetes medicine

If you have type 1 diabetes you can be treated with insulin injections every day, at least twice a day, to allow your body to use blood sugar for energy. Learning to give injections to yourself or to your infant or child may at first seem the most daunting part of managing diabetes, but the process quickly becomes routine.

Some people with diabetes use a computer controlled pump - called an insulin pump - that administers insulin on a set basis. You and your doctor programme the pump to deliver a certain amount of insulin throughout the day. In addition, you programme the pump to deliver a certain amount of insulin based on your blood sugar level before you eat.

Insulin is available in different types. Long-acting types last up to a day between injections. Short-acting ones last up to 8 hours. Rapid-acting doesn’t last as long, but works quicker.

By monitoring your own blood sugar levels, you can track your body's fluctuating insulin demand and help your doctor calculate the most appropriate insulin dosage. People with type 1 diabetes check their blood sugar up to four times a day with an instrument called a glucometer. The glucometer detects glucose levels in a sample of your blood dabbed on a special strip.

To determine your blood glucose control, HbA1c may be checked, which shows your average blood sugar over the past six to 12 weeks.

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