When you have type 2 diabetes, the receptors on your cell membranes are also less sensitive to insulin. Insulin needs to attach to these receptors in order for glucose to be able to enter the cell. Less sensitive receptors means insulin can't bind. And that means glucose can't get into the cell. Therefore, the level of glucose in the blood stays high, and the cells don't have the energy they need from glucose. Increasing the level of insulin in the body can help overcome this problem.


Potential Side Effects of Sulfonylureas

Talk with your doctor if you think this medicine is causing side effects. You may experience the following when you take a sulfonylurea:

  • constipation
  • heartburn
  • low blood glucose if the dose of your pills is too high for your condition
  • nausea
  • skin rash or itching
  • upset stomach
  • weight gain

Not everyone who takes sulfonylureas will have these side effects. You should not be afraid to take your medicine because of the side effects listed. They are listed so that you can watch out for them and tell your doctor right away if you experience any of them.


Possible Drug Interactions With Sulfonylureas

Before you take a sulfonylurea, tell all your doctors and your pharmacist about all the medicines you take. Include medicines you take for your diabetes as well as for any other problem. Tell them about everything you take and how much you take each day, including all of the following:

  • prescription medicines
  • over-the-counter medicines
  • herbs
  • vitamin and mineral supplements

It's best to keep an updated list of these and bring a copy to give to your doctor. That way you can add to it whenever you take something new or delete the types you no longer take. Make a copy for each of your doctors so that they can keep it in your file. This complete list helps your doctor be better prepared to prescribe a sulfonylurea that is the least likely to interact with your other treatments.


Important Notes:

  • Do not take sulfonylureas if you are allergic to sulfa drugs.
  • Minimize your use of alcohol when you take this type of medicine; it may cause illness and lead to low blood glucose, called hypoglycemia.

Many medicines can have harmful effects when you take them with other medicines. Always tell your doctor about all the medicines that you take. Do not use any other medicine without your doctor's OK. Talk with your doctor before you take a sulfonylurea if you take any other medicines.

Written by award-winning health writer Bobbie Hasselbring


Reviewed by Beth Seltzer, MD

Last updated June 2008