Effect of Medications on Blood Sugar Levels and Diabetes
This handout explains how your body's blood sugar levels may change because of medicines you are taking.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body uses food. Your body turns the food you eat into a form of sugar called glucose. The bloodstream carries glucose to your body's cells. Insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) helps glucose enter your cells where it is changed into energy and used or stored for future use.
If the body does not make enough insulin or if the insulin being released doesn't work as well, blood glucose builds up in the bloodstream. This causes high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia).
Types of diabetes
1. Type 1 (known in the past as juvenile onset)
2. Type 2 (known in the past as adult onset)
3. Gestational (occurs during pregnancy)
4. Medicine induced
5. Diseases of the pancreas or endocrine system
What Is Medicine-Induced Diabetes?
High blood sugar levels can occur if you start to take certain drugs like steroids. Even though your body still makes insulin, these drugs prevent insulin from working well enough to keep blood glucose levels normal.
What drugs might raise blood glucose levels?
- Cyclosporine (Neoral®)
- Tacrolimus (Prograf®)
- Prednisone or dexamethazone
What are the risk factors?
- Age greater than 45
- Glucose intolerance (fasting blood glucose 100-125mg/dL)
- A family history of type 2 diabetes
- Ethnic background: African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander, Asian American
What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels?
Normal blood sugar levels are 70 - 99 mg/dL when fasting and before meals. The normal levels after meals are 70 - 140 mg/dL.
Why does it matter?
Keeping blood glucose levels as normal as possible will promote healing. Also, there is less chance for problems like rejection and infection. You might feel better and have more energy when blood glucose levels are normal.
Will I have diabetes forever?
Some people have high blood glucose levels only when taking these drugs. Others may still need to monitor blood glucose levels after the drugs are stopped.
Care Needed for Managing Diabetes
1. Blood Sugar Monitoring at Home
Many patients are taught to use a meter to measure blood sugar values at home. Results should be written in a record book. This book is reviewed at clinic visits to decide on any changes in treatment.
Your target blood sugar range is _______ to _______ mg/dL.
2. Healthy Eating
Patients who have developed diabetes from medicines need to limit their intake of high fat foods to avoid weight gain. Also avoid foods and drinks with sugar that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. We suggest a weight loss program for patients who are overweight. Even a small weight loss can improve your control.
If you have more questions, please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers listed below.
2880 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
UW Health West Clinic
451 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717
UW Health East Clinic
5249 East Terrace Drive
Madison, WI 53718
Activity is a very important part of managing your diabetes. Activities such as walking or biking burn sugar in your bloodstream which lowers blood sugar levels. Your need for medicine may be reduced if you increase your activity on a routine basis. You should check your blood glucose levels before, during, and after activity. You may be at risk for low blood sugars up to 24 hours after activity.
Talk with your health care provider about any activity restrictions you may have before starting a program.
4. Medicine (if needed)
Some people are able to control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and more activity. Some people need drugs to keep their blood sugars normal.
Pills - Diabetes pills work by helping to make more insulin and by helping insulin to work better. These pills do not work for all patients.
Insulin - Some people must inject insulin in order to control blood sugar levels. You will be taught how to do this if necessary.
Blood sugar levels vary based on the dose of prednisone you are taking. When your dose is large, your blood sugar levels can be high. You might need some insulin. After the dose is decreased, you may be able to manage your blood sugars without insulin or pills.
If you have any further concerns or questions, please feel free to ask the hospital or clinic staff.
Hagen, Hjelmesaeth, Jenssen, Morkrid, and Hartmann. (2003). A 6-year prospective study on new onset diabetes mellitus, insulin release and insulin sensitivity in renal transplant recipients. Nephrology Dialysis Transplant, 18: 2154-2159.
Baran, Ashkar, Galin, Sandler, Segura, Courtney, Correa, Chan, Lansman, Spielvogel, Cheng, and Gass. (2002). Tacrolimus and new onset diabetes mellitus: the effect of steroid weaning. Transplantation Proceedings, 34: 1711-1712.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/08/2012
Copyright © 05/08/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4451
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