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Oral Medications for Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes pills can help to manage your blood sugar. These pills are not insulin. They work to manage your blood sugar in several ways. You may be given a combination of medications. Always follow your health care provider's instructions.

Some pills may put you at higher risk for low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Watch for symptoms of low blood sugar. Symptoms are listed below. Call your doctor if low blood sugar occurs often.

Type of diabetes pills


These pills help your body make more insulin. They are usually taken 30 minutes before a meal. Possible side effects include hypoglycemia.

Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors

These pills slow the digestion of sugars and starches. They can help keep your blood sugar from going too high after a meal. Take them with the first bite of each main meal. Possible side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Excess gas (flatulence)  


These pills help your muscle cells use insulin better. Your doctor may order lab tests to check the function of your liver before prescribing these pills and regularly while you are taking them. Possible side effects include: 

  • Weight gain

  • Extra fluid in your body and swelling

  • Increased risk for heart failure

  • Osteoporosis and increased risk for broken bones


These pills help control the amount of glucose in your blood. They do this by decreasing the amount of glucose made by your liver and helping your muscles use insulin more effectively. These medications are usually taken with with or after each meal. Possible side effects include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal bloating

  • Excess gas (flatulence)

  • Metallic taste in mouth 


These pills increase your insulin for a short period of time. They are usually taken before meals. Possible side effects include:

  • Low blood sugar

  • Diarrhea

  • Headache 

  • Slightly increased risk for heart problems

DPP-4 inhibitors

These pills help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. They are less likely to cause hypoglycemia, unless you take them with a sulfonylurea. They are taken once a day. Possible side effects include:

  • Upper respiratory tract infection

  • Stuffy or runny nose

  • Sore throat

  • Headache

Other side effects are under investigation.

SGLT-2 inhibitors

These pills help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes by increasing the amount of sugar that leaks into the urine. Possible side effects include:

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Genital infections, especially in women 

Dopamine D2 receptor agonist (bromocriptine mesylate)

These pills help lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Possible side effects of this medicine include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

Combination pills

These medications may help keep your blood glucose within your target range. They also help your pancreas make more insulin and may help your muscles use insulin more effectively. Side effects depend on which type of combination you use. Your healthcare provider can tell you more.


Watch for symptoms of hypoglycemia

  • Headaches

  • Shakiness or dizziness

  • Hunger

  • Cold, clammy skin; sweating

  • A hard, fast heartbeat

  • Confusion or irritability




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