Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment

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6 Tips for Talking to Your Diabetes Doctor About Non-Insulin Injectables

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Susan Fishman, APC, CRC on September 16, 2022
  • Man injecting insulin into stomach
    Give it a shot.
    Starting a non-insulin injectable medication can sound about as much fun as, well, getting a shot. As with any diabetes treatment, you may have concerns and questions: How often do I have to do it? Will it make me sick? Do I still need to watch what I eat? Do I need insulin, too? These are all good questions and things you should discuss with your doctor to help ease your concerns and to help understand the benefits of using a non-insulin injectable.
  • Doctor talking with patient
    1. First, find out how the injectables work.
    If you have type 2 diabetes, and lifestyle changes are not enough to control your blood sugar, your doctor may suggest non-insulin injections. They are designed to reduce sugar production in the liver and slow the absorption of food, and are generally tried before insulin therapy is prescribed. There are two main categories of non-insulin agents - amylins and incretins, and knowing how they work can help you determine if it’s best for you.
  • middle aged African American woman taking off glasses and pinching bridge of nose
    2. Ask about side effects.
    The most common side effects with non-insulin injectables are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea and low blood sugar. Some people lose weight and some have headaches. More uncommon side effects include pancreatitis, hives or other allergic reactions, and forming antibodies to the medication. See your doctor if you have severe abdominal pain that won’t go away, or notice any lumps, swelling of the neck, hoarseness or trouble swallowing. Rarely, taking these medications can lead to thyroid cancer if you are predisposed.
  • Woman checking blood sugar on finger
    3. Talk about combining them with insulin.
    Some non-insulin injectables are not yet approved by the FDA for patients using insulin. The risk of hypoglycemia can be greater when the two treatments are combined. If you are treated with insulin (or considering taking insulin), ask your doctor if your dose needs to be decreased before starting a non-insulin injectable. Also let your doctor know if you have any other symptoms, such as abdominal pain or nausea.
  • Diabetic woman injecting insulin at a piano
    4. Ask how injectables should be taken.
    Dosing varies from twice-a-day to once a week, depending on the medication. Most injectables are to be administered with food to help prevent nausea or vomiting, but some instructions are even more specific. For example, on instruction may to be to take the medication within one hour of the two largest meals of the day. It’s often available in a pen (much like an insulin pen). Talk to your doctor about when and how to take your medication.
  • woman using sticky notes to organize a calendar
    5. Consider how long they take to work.
    As with any new treatment, your body needs a chance to adjust to the medication. Once you begin to tolerate it, your doctor may want to increase the dosage. You may have several increases before you begin to meet your blood sugar goals. 
  • senior woman exercising outdoors, stretching and breathing out through pursed lips
    6. Ask what else you can do.
    Using non-insulin injectables alone is not enough to keep your blood sugar where it needs to be. Diet and exercise are still an important part of any diabetes treatment, and your doctor can provide plenty of tips that can help make it easier to manage your blood sugar, using food, activity and medication combined.
6 Tips for Talking to Your Diabetes Doctor About Non-Insulin Injectables

About The Author

Susan Fishman, APC, CRC is a veteran freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in health education. She is also an Associate Professional Counselor and Clinical Rehabilitation Counselor, adding mental health and wellness to her area of expertise.

You can follow Susan’s work at http://www.writingbyfishman.com/ or https://twitter.com/@fishmanwriting on Twitter.
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Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 16
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