I've had type 2 diabetes for 23 years now. When I was diagnosed, the only treatments available were sulfonylureas, metformin (which had only been approved here the year before), or insulin. And the cutoff for a diagnosis of diabetes was a fasting blood glucose (BG) level of 140 mg/dL.
Since then, myriad drugs have come on the market, including the glitazones, glutides, gliptins, gliflozins, and meglitinides. A real tongue-twister.
Examples of these newer drugs are Actos (glitazone, or thiazolidinedione); Victoza (glutide; GLP-1 agonist); Januvia (gliptin; DPP-4 inhibitor), Invokana; (gliflozin; SGLT-2 inhibitor), and Starlix (meglitinide; long-acting sulfonylurea). Some of them are available as combinations with other diabetes drugs. Some are injectable and others are pills. Some last a week and others just a day or less.
You can find a more complete list here.
Some of these drugs can cause weight gain and others can contribute to weight loss. Some are supposed to protect the heart and some seem to increase rates of heart disease. Some increase rates of pancreatitis. Other side effects include nausea, urinary tract infections, ketoacidosis, and even lower-limb amputation.
Clearly, deciding which medications are best for you depends on many factors, and different physicians have different preferences. However, today most agree that metformin is the best drug to start with unless you can't tolerate it because of GI side effects.
But despite all the new drugs, one treatment remains the same as when I was diagnosed: diet and exercise. At first, this treatment is the most difficult of all.
We'd all like to be able to take a pill and continue eating what we've always eaten, including, in almost all cases, more food than our body needs. This is not entirely our fault. Portions at restaurants are often huge, and tempting treats are offered everywhere. We've usually been raised to clean our plates and not waste food. But if we want to be healthy, we need a major brain reshuffle to reject old ideas and acquire new ones.
What works for me is a low-carb diet, and I think that's the best one to start with. If for some reason, it doesn't work for you, then you can try to find another diet that works for you. But controlling our food intake, no matter how, is essential. Exercise is good for the heart but usually has less effect on blood glucose levels than diet does.
The most difficult thing facing you when diagnosed, I think, is accepting the fact that you're going to have to revamp your eating habits, usually in a major way. You have diabetes, and it's not going to go away. It can be controlled, but not cured, at least not today. It's difficult to accept this at first, but it's necessary if you want to live a long and healthy life.
That's bad news, but here's some good news. One study showed that people with diabetes who take metformin actually live longer, on average, than people who don't have diabetes. This doesn't mean you can take metformin and not change your dietary habits. But it is consistent with the saying that the best way to stay healthy is to develop a chronic disease that forces you to take care of yourself.
So instead of raging against our fate, we should be grateful that fate has given us a second chance. Let's use it to stay healthy for many more years to come.