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What are glitazone medications?

Glitazone medications—sometimes called thiazolidinediones—are used to treat type 2 diabetes. A common glitazone medication is pioglitazone (Actos).

Glitazones work by lowering your blood glucose (blood sugar) if you have type 2 diabetes. They do this in two ways:

  • They increase the ability of your muscles to use glucose for energy. As more glucose is used, more glucose leaves your bloodstream.
  • They decrease the amount of glucose released by your liver. Less glucose enters your bloodstream. They're taken by mouth (orally) as a pill.

Glitazones can’t cure type 2 diabetes. But by helping control your blood glucose, they can lower the chance that your diabetes will cause serious problems. As you know, when you have diabetes, you tend to have high blood glucose. Over time, this can damage your blood vessels and nerves, leading to heart attack or stroke, kidney and eye disease, and problems with your teeth, feet and skin. If you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol—like many people with diabetes—you have an even greater risk for these problems. (This is why you should always take your blood pressure or cholesterol medications as well as your diabetes medications.)

Glitazones work best in the treatment of type 2 diabetes when you’re following the rest of your diabetes treatment plan. This means that you need to check your blood glucose regularly, follow your meal plan and exercise every day. It may also include taking other diabetes medications.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Glitazones lower blood glucose by improving the body's ability to respond to insulin. They also limit the conversion of starch to glucose in the liver. Glitazones available in the US include pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia). Glitazones are taken by mouth. They may be prescribed alone or in combination with other diabetes drugs. Several products are available that combine a glitazone with another diabetes drug such as metformin in a single pill.

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition, or find a doctor.

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