Can I stop taking type 2 medications if my BGLs are in target?

People often wonder if they still need to continue taking their diabetes medications when their blood glucose levels are in target range and they feel fine. The quick answer is yes.  Taking your medications and incorporating healthy lifestyle choices, such as being active and eating healthily, make a huge difference to your blood glucose levels.

A word of caution

Never stop medications on your own. Have a discussion with you medical team to seek guidance as to whether this is appropriate for you. Stopping your diabetes medications and managing your diabetes with a healthy diet and physical activity may not be enough to keep your blood glucose levels in target range.

How does type 2 diabetes occur?

Generally, people develop type 2 diabetes because:

  • Your body becomes less sensitive to the effect of the hormone insulin (this is known as insulin resistance).
  • Your pancreas no longer makes enough insulin. As a result, too much glucose remains in your blood stream and does not get into the cells where it is needed for energy. High blood glucose levels over time are harmful to your body and can increase your risk of diabetes complications. These complications include damage to your nerves, blood vessels and organs.

The goal of diabetes management is to help get the glucose, and therefore energy, into the cells and prevent the systemic damage that high blood glucose levels can do to your body. The aim of treatment is to get your blood glucose levels as close to your target range as possible. This most likely means that taking medication is necessary. However, taking medications does not make your diabetes go away or fix the underlying problems.

Medications

There are different types of medications that can help you manage your type 2 diabetes. These medications are grouped together in classes based on how they work in your body. Whichever medication you are given, it will help keep your blood glucose levels in your target range and prevent the complications from diabetes over time. It’s important not to compare your medication needs with others. We are all individual and so are our medication needs.

Most medications are available as a tablet, although some are taken as an injection. Many medications can be taken in combination. For more information see this NDSS fact sheet on medications.

Can you reduce or come off your medications?

If you reduce your body’s insulin resistance before your pancreas is worn out, you may be able to lower your need for medications. You may even be able to stop them altogether. You can often achieve this by lowering your body fat if you are overweight, and/or increasing your physical activity. Physical activity makes you more sensitive to insulin. The possibility of being able to reduce, or come off, your medication will depend on your body and how your diabetes has progressed. But remember, diabetes is not a static condition and your medication needs will change over time. You will need a regular assessment of your blood glucose levels by your GP, even if you are not taking any medications. By being proactive with your diabetes management and having regular check-ups, you are making positive steps with your diabetes management.

Treatment plans

The approach to managing diabetes, and the use of medications, is different for everyone. Your diabetes health team will devise a treatment plan that is best for you.

Free programs

To understand more about diabetes management, consider the following free, NDSS-sponsored, online learning programs:

To find out more on how your medications work you can join a face-to-face Med Smart program (check availability here).

 

Monica McDaniel‑Wong, Credentialled Diabetes Educator

 

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