What Are Sulfonylureas And When Are They Used?

Question:What are sulfonylureas and when are they used?

Answer:The sulfonylureas are a very old group of drugs that were developed more than 50 years ago and have been used frequently to treat type 2 diabetes. They work by increasing the amount of insulin that your own pancreas makes. So they stimulate the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. You take them as a pill, sometimes once a day, sometimes twice a day.

The side effects are relatively infrequent, but if you make too much insulin with these medications, you can actually have a blood sugar level that goes too low. This is called hypoglycemia. The symptoms from that are people usually get a little anxious or shaky. They may start sweating. And if you test your blood sugar level with a finger stick, for example, you'll find that the blood sugar is usually less than 70 milligrams per deciliter.

These medications are used frequently. They're tolerated generally well, other than the hypoglycemia. Like many other medications to treat diabetes, sometimes they can cause some weight gain, so you may notice that your weight goes up a little bit. The way you know the drug is working the way it's supposed to is that your blood sugar levels will decrease.

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