How is type 2 diabetes treated?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for type 2 diabetes. However, if you manage your condition effectively, you can expect a long, healthy life. Type 2 diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, exercise, and regular blood glucose, or blood sugar, testing. You may also need to take medications prescribed for type 2 diabetes. These may be in the form of pills, insulin, or other types of medicines. The primary goal of type 2 diabetes treatment is to stabilize your blood glucose levels. The better your blood glucose is managed, the more positive your treatment outcomes.

Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Treatment for type 2 diabetes varies, and it can change over time. Some people can control it with diet and exercise alone. Others must take pills to help their body process glucose. Some people with type 2 diabetes need insulin shots, just like those with type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is treated with oral medication and sometimes with an additional dose of insulin. With a healthy diet, weight management and regular physical activity, type 2 diabetes can be prevented.

Once type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. In many cases, type 2 complications may be prevented or even reversed with weight loss and exercise.

Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Recommendations for healthy living can help anyone on a diabetes-treatment plan. Regardless of the medications you are using to control your glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, make sure you eat healthy, maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active. A study from the Diabetes Prevention Program found that people at risk for type 2 diabetes who lost about 10 to 20 pounds and were active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, could prevent or delay the development of this condition.

Amy Campbell

Your treatment plan is largely dependent on your A1C level. If you are newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may be able to manage your diabetes with a healthy eating plan, losing a small amount of weight (if you need to) and regular physical activity. However, if your A1C is above target (usually 7 percent for most people with diabetes), you may need to start on a diabetes medication (often metformin). Over time, your provider may recommend that you take another or even two more diabetes medications, especially if your A1C increases. And it's not uncommon for people with type 2 diabetes to eventually need to take insulin. How do you know? Know your A1C level and what your goal is. If you aren't able to get or keep your A1C at goal with what you're currently doing, you likely need a change in your treatment plan!

Dr. Matthew J. Freeby, MD

There are a number of treatments available for type 2 diabetes. The first, and most important treatment recommendation is modifying food intake and increasing exercise. Recommended dietary changes include moderating meal size and reducing carbohydrate portions. All people with type 2 diabetes should see a diabetes educator to discuss in detail.

Exercise is also an important treatment for people with type 2 diabetes. Generally, people should exercise approximately 30 minutes per day five days per week which can include walking, jogging, biking, using weights and other activities. Doctors recommend that people do what they enjoy and start slow. Prior to beginning any form of exercise, all people with diabetes should review recommendations with their doctor to ensure safety.

If a medication is needed, there are many choices available to people with type 2 diabetes. Metformin is usually first-line therapy. It is generic and typically covered by most insurances. Benefits of metformin include modest weight loss and a very low risk of hypoglycemia. The most common side effect is gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, bloating or diarrhea. Each class of medications has its own risks and benefits and should be discussed in detail with a doctor when deciding upon therapy. Other classes of medications include:

  • sulfonylureas
  • insulin
  • sodium glucose cotransporter type 2 inhibitors
  • dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitors
  • glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists
  • thiazolidinediones

Whether you should take oral medication, insulin, or any medication at all and what sort of insulin or medication plan you need depends on how your body is dealing with the glucose it makes. Your treatment plan is based on your usual blood glucose levels. Ideally, you will want to keep your glucose levels as close to normal as possible. ADA’s general targets for blood glucose levels are 70–130 mg/dl range before meals and less than 180 mg/dl 2 hours after meals. Talk to your provider about setting your own blood glucose targets.

Your treatment plan is based on your usual blood glucose levels. Ideally, you will want to keep your levels as close to normal as possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.