Diabetes health hub

We have a huge bank of information related to diabetes and associated conditions, so whether you need to find out more about the disease, learn how to manage it by changing your lifestyle or with medication or if you simply want to avoid it altogether, we are here to help.

The body uses a hormone made by the pancreas, called insulin, to break down sugar in the blood. In the case of type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether. In type 2 diabetes, the body cannot produce enough insulin to handle all the sugar in the body. Patients with an impaired glucose tolerance are considered pre-diabetic and should take action before type 2 diabetes takes hold.

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Type 2 diabetes occurs mainly (but not just) in people aged over 40. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body cannot make enough insulin or use it effectively enough to manage the amount of sugar in your blood. The first-line treatment is diet, weight control and physical activity. If the blood sugar (glucose) level remains high despite these measures then tablets to reduce the blood glucose level are usually advised.

Keep reading about type 2 diabetes Read more about:

Living with type 2 diabetes

Advice for people with diabetes when unwell

Any illness or other type of stress will raise your blood sugar (glucose) levels, people with diabetes will not be able to produce more insulin to counteract this effect. Extra care needs to be taken with a diabetic patient.

Diabetic retinopathy

If you have diabetes, it is vital that you have your eyes checked regularly. Having high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in the retina which can lead to loss of vision and even blindness

Pregnancy and diabetes

Pregnancy causes blood sugar levels to increase. Women with diabetes need to take extra care throughout their pregnancy and go for more frequent checkups with their doctor.

Diabetic kidney disease

Having high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys, causing them to leak abnormal amounts of proteins into the urine. Diabetic kidney disease can eventually lead to kidney failure.

Diabetes, foot care and foot ulcers

Some people with diabetes develop foot ulcers. A foot ulcer is prone to infection, which may become severe. Find out why foot ulcers develop, what you can do to help prevent them, and typical treatments if one does occur.

Type 2 diabetes - What do I need to know?

Dr Sarah Jarvis’ personal advice and guidance on what living with type 2 diabetes will be like. Sarah touches on the risks that diabetes brings, such as an elevated risk of heart disease and eye problems, as well as the treatment pathways, medication and lifestyle changes that can vastly improve your outlook if followed carefully. If you want a primer in diabetes, this is the best place to start.

First aid for diabetes

Diabetes is all about handling the highs and lows of life, but do you know the signs of high and low blood sugar? Learn how to spot them and how you can fix them.

Dealing with Hyperglycaemia (High Blood Sugar) Dealing with Hypoglycaemia (Low Blood Sugar) Red cross
The law and driving with diabetes

A drop in blood sugar can be disastrous in some situations. Dr Sarah Jarvis talks about where the law stands on driving with diabetes.

Find out more in our DVLA Guidelines section

Take control of your diabetes with our Diabetes Manager

Diabetes Manager allows you to track your essential diabetes data and tailors the app to you, whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Developed with our clinical knowledge, in collaboration with diabetes patients, our new free Diabetes Manager app is now available to iPhone users.

Download from the AppStore

Treatments and medication for type 2 diabetes

Treatments for type 2 diabetes - an overview

The first-line and BEST treatment for type 2 diabetes is diet, weight control and physical activity.

For more information on a healthy diet, check out our staying healthy section below
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If diet and exercise are not sufficient, then you will be prescribed medication to treat your diabetes
Metformin diagram

Doctors have a huge array of treatments, drugs and medicines at their disposal to help you fight type 2 diabetes. If diet and exercise are not enough, your doctor can try many different medications and combinations until you find the one that is right for you.

This guide will take you through the steps you and your doctor will take

Step 1 Metformin or Sulfonylurea medicines?

This will be your doctor's first choice in most situations. It works by increasing the sensitivity of your body’s cells to insulin and decreasing the amount of sugar released by the liver into the bloodstream, lowering your blood sugar level. It is the most common form of medication for people with type 2 diabetes.

Sulfonylurea medicines

Some people are unable to take metformin due to side effects or other reasons. This is where sulfonylureas come in. They work by increasing the production of insulin in the pancreas. Sulfonylurea medicines include glimepiride, gliclazide, glipizide, tolbutamide and glibenclamide

There’s also meglitinides such as nateglinide and repaglinide which work in a similar way and are useful if you have irregular meals.

Step 2 Supplementing existing medication

Sometimes metformin or sulfonylurea medicines are not enough to reduce the blood sugar of a patient with diabetes, in which case it may be necessary to supplement the treatment with another group of drugs.

Dipeptidyl peptidase 4 inhibitors

DPP4 inhibitors work by blocking chemical signals in your body that would normally halt the production of insulin. By blocking these signals, your body can create more insulin to lower your blood sugar. DPP4 inhibitors include linagliptin, saxagliptin, sitagliptin and vildagliptin.


Thiazolidinediones make your cells more sensitive to insulin, meaning that your body uses the insulin you have more effectively. These drugs are unsuitable for people with heart failure. Thiazolidinediones include pioglitazone.


Acarbose works by delaying the absorption of carbohydrates (which are broken down into glucose). However they are not used very often due to the common side effects of bloating, wind and diarrhoea.

Step 3 Stepping up your control

If the standard combined treatments are not enough to control blood sugar levels, there are two other treatments that your doctor can try.


If combined treatments are not effective, insulin can be prescribed to supplement the insulin your body already makes. It can be used on its own or in combination with the medicines listed above. It is administered via injections under the skin. The exact type and dose will vary from person to person, and will be prescribed according to your needs.

Glucagon-like Peptide-1 Mimetics

Think of these like an artificial sweetener. In the same way that an artificial sweetener tricks your tongue into thinking that it tastes sweet without the sugar, glucagon-like peptide-1 mimetics trick your body into thinking that they are glucagon. They stimulate insulin release, which breaks down glucose (sugar) and stops more glucagon being released (which causes glucose levels to rise).

Remember that the best way to combat type 2 diabetes is through diet and exercise
Sulfonylurea diagram

Staying healthy with type 2 diabetes

Having a healthy lifestyle and eating well is very important to those with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as it can help manage the disease. Follow these links for more information

Monitor your weight with our Weight Tracker app

If you are trying to lose or gain weight, keep track and analyse your progress with our new weight tracker app.

Available for iOS and Android

Weight tracker mobile app
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Advanced topics on type 2 diabetes

These pages are aimed at medical professionals and you may find some of the language complex. However if you want more information on your condition, these articles are the best place to start

Antihyperglycaemic agents used for type 2 diabetesGlucose tolerance tests
Assessment of the patient with established diabetesGlycated haemoglobin (HbA1c)
Audit of diabetes careManagement of type 2 diabetes
Diabetes diet and exerciseManaging impaired glucose tolerance in primary care
Diabetes education and self-management programmesMetabolic syndrome
Diabetes and intercurrent illnessPrecautions with patients with diabetes undergoing surgery
Emergency management of hypoglycaemiaPrevention of type 2 diabetes
Eye in systemic diseaseThe patient with newly-diagnosed diabetes