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Diabetes treatment

Whilst there is currently no known cure for diabetes, there are many ways to manage the condition. With a proper care plan and good blood glucose control, you can reduce the risk of developing the health complications related to diabetes.

Work closely with your healthcare professional to create the best care plan for you. They will be able to support and advise on how to self-manage your condition, including how and when to measure your blood glucose levels, how to interpret the results and what action to take.

Common treatments for diabetes include insulin injections, oral medications, diet and exercise. Choosing foods wisely and staying physically active are the first step. If you can't reach your target blood glucose levels with diet and physical activity, your healthcare professional may prescribe diabetes medicines. The medicine type will depend on your type of diabetes, your way of life and your other health conditions.

Oral Medicines

Many people with type 2 diabetes still create insulin, but their bodies either do not make enough or do not use it as effectively as they should.

Today’s oral drugs offer more options for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Because various medications work in different ways, healthcare professionals may be able to add drugs together for better results. While on oral medication for diabetes, frequently checking your blood glucose helps you know if the medicine is working.

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Insulin treatment

Insulin is a hormone made by your body. It moves blood glucose from your blood into your cells. If your body cannot generate its own insulin, it may be necessary to take insulin in order to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. In these cases, insulin must be placed into the bloodstream. Insulin can be injected by a syringe or a pen, or through an insulin pump device. Insulin cannot be taken in pill form because the acids in the stomach break it down.

There are a variety of insulin types, brands and sources. Healthcare professionals often prescribe 2 types of insulin: mealtime insulin and background insulin. Mealtime insulin (short-term, known as 'bolus') is used to control after-meal blood glucose. Background insulin (known as 'basal') is used to meet your needs throughout the day and night.

Insulin characteristics

By observing how the insulin you use affects your blood glucose levels, you can better manage your blood glucose levels. Each type of insulin has 3 characteristics:1

  • Start or onset — how long it usually takes for insulin to start working.
  • Peak — the time when the insulin is working hardest.
  • Duration — how long the insulin usually stays in your body.

Try to make a point of knowing the characteristics of the insulin(s) you use and understand how they affect your blood glucose levels.

Insulin delivery methods

Because people with type 1 diabetes do not produce their own insulin, they need to supply their bodies with insulin from an outside source. There are currently 3 main insulin delivery methods:

  • Injections are traditionally the way people with diabetes deliver insulin to their bodies. It involves drawing insulin from a bottle into a syringe and injecting it into the body.
  • Insulin pens offer a modern method of injection. They look like writing pens and are prefilled with insulin. The user dials a dose of insulin from a cartridge in the pen.
  • An insulin pump is attached to the user at all times, delivering insulin to the body 24 hours a day.

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Insulin pumps

An insulin pump provides insulin to your body 24 hours a day, without needing to inject, meaning you are able to live a more flexible life.

Delivery of insulin via an insulin pump closely imitates the natural action of the pancreas. A continuous supply of insulin, known as the basal rate, is delivered automatically based on your daily insulin requirements. You can also give yourself supplemental boluses of insulin to cover the food you eat as well as correct your blood glucose when it is out of range. Your healthcare professional will help you determine your basal rate.

An insulin pump makes it easy for you to effectively handle everyday situations such as eating meals at different times, irregular work schedules, varying activity levels and changes in blood glucose levels caused by illness, stress or medications.

During the day, you can take your insulin pump off for short periods of time to swim, bath or shower as well as to participate in contact sports. At night you can simply clip the pump to your pyjamas or tuck it under your pillow before you go to sleep.

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  1. American Diabetes Association, Insulin Basics. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medicati.... Accessed on 18 June 2014.