Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment

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7 Myths About Non-Insulin Injectables

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Erin Azuse, RN on September 18, 2022
  • Middle-aged Latina doctor having conversation with patient in office
    How much do you know about non-insulin injectables for type 2 diabetes?
    If you’re unable to control your type 2 diabetes with weight loss, diet and exercise, your doctor will prescribe medication to help lower your blood sugar. Many people are familiar with oral medications, such as metformin, and insulin injections to treat diabetes but may not know as much about another type of medication called non-insulin injectables. Let’s clear up some common misunderstandings and help you learn more about how this type of diabetes treatment works.
  • portrait of smiling senior woman by lake
    Myth # 1: Using a non-insulin injectable means you haven’t managed your diabetes well.
    Using a non-insulin injectable shouldn’t be considered a failure on your part. Diabetes is often a progressive disease, and it’s not uncommon that your doctor may need to change your treatment or add another diabetes medication over time. Most type 2 diabetics are started on an oral medication first, but if it starts losing its effectiveness, your doctor may recommend trying a non-insulin injectable medication to better control your blood sugar.
  • diabetes injectable pen
    Myth # 2: Non-insulin injectables are just a substitute for insulin therapy.
    These two types of diabetes treatment are not the same. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin, a hormone released from your pancreas to help regulate the blood sugar from your food, but it doesn’t respond to it properly. When you give yourself an insulin injection, you are supplying your body with an external source of insulin to help lower your blood sugar. By contrast, the most commonly used non-insulin injectable drugs, referred to as glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists (GLP-1), stimulate your pancreas to release more if its own insulin. GLP-1 drugs also slow the release of blood sugar from your liver and its absorption into your blood.
  • young couple eating fruit
    Myth # 3: Non-insulin injectables are only used for type 2 diabetics.
    Though the majority of non-insulin injectables are for type 2 diabetics, one is also approved for use by type 1 diabetics- pramlintide (Symlin). Pramlintide decreases the amount of glucose, or sugar, released by your liver when you eat. It’s helpful for diabetics who are having a hard time controlling their blood sugars with insulin around meal time.
  • woman checking blood sugar levels
    Myth # 4: The injections are going to be painful.
    Non-insulin injectables are given using small needles in the subcutaneous, or fatty, tissue of your body, such as your abdomen, upper leg, or upper arm. Most people find that they are minimally painful, if at all. In fact, you’ll probably discover the injections hurt even less than when you prick your finger to test your blood sugar. Make sure to rotate the location of your injections to avoid developing any painful lumps or bumps under your skin.
  • writing in planner
    Myth # 5: You’ll have to give yourself multiple shots each day with this diabetes treatment.
    This depends on the type of medication your doctor prescribes. Some non-insulin injectables like exenatide (Byetta) are given twice daily with meals, but others like liraglutide (Victoza) are only injected once a day. Newer formulations such as dulaglutide (Trulicity) are only administered once a week. Your doctor will determine which medication is right for you.
  • woman-standing-on-weight-scale
    Myth # 6: All type 2 diabetes treatments make you gain weight.
    While certain oral diabetes medications and insulin can lead to weight gain, some non-insulin injectables actually have the opposite effect and can result in moderate weight loss. Exenatide (Byetta, Bydureon) and liraglutide (Victoza) are two examples. They appear to not only help lower blood sugar but may also suppress your appetite and keep you feeling full for longer periods of time. Since weight loss can help improve type 2 diabetes, this is an added benefit!
  • bowl of raisins on table
    Myth # 7: You won’t have to worry about low blood sugar if you take a non-insulin injectable.
    Non-insulin injectables themselves are unlikely to cause low blood sugar, also known as hypoglcemia, but if you’re also taking insulin or a type of oral medication to treat your diabetes called a sulfonylurea, you may be more at risk. Talk to your doctor about signs of hypoglycemia, such as shakiness, dizziness, fast heart rate or sweating. It’s also a good idea to carry simple carbohydrate snacks with you, like hard candies, raisins or juice, so you’re prepared if your blood sugar drops.
Non-Insulin Injectables | Diabetes Treatment

About The Author

Erin Azuse, RN, has been a registered nurse for 18 years, working in neonatal intensive care and pediatrics. She specializes in creating educational materials for patients, consumers, and other healthcare providers, as well as content marketing for private physicians’ practices, medical device companies, and nursing schools.
Byetta, Victoza, Bydureon: Diabetes drugs and weight loss. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/expert-answers/byetta/faq-20057955
insulin and Other Injectables. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/
Non-Insulin Injectable Medications. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/13901-diabetes-non-insulin-injectable-medications
Type 2 Diabetes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351199
Type 2 Non Insulin Therapies. Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California San Francisco. https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/treatment-of-type-2-diabetes/medications-and-therapies/...
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Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 18
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