Take care when using these common medications that may interfere with your blood sugar control. Work, with your doctor to lower the effects.
Surprisingly common medicines, including those for treating cholesterol, may affect your blood sugar control.
When type 2 diabetes creeps into your life, it usually isn’t alone. It often brings other health problems with it, and these complications may need treatment.
“One of the challenges that we face is that many patients with diabetes also have other conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and those conditions need medication that can raise blood glucose levels,” says Eva M. Vivian, PharmD, professor of pharmacy at University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy.
But just because a medication can raise your blood sugar doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it. Still, you should be aware of the possibility, and work with your doctor to find the best approach for you.
Let’s look at some of the most common meds that can affect blood sugar control:
1. Corticosteroids– These are a class of steroid hormones used to lower inflammation in arthritis, asthma, allergies, and injuries to your joints.
- When used in inhalers or skin creams, corticosteroids aren’t likely to affect blood glucose because they don’t enter the bloodstream in big enough quantities.
➡ However, if they’re prescribed for several days or weeks, your sugar levels can go very high and become a significant problem.
If you’ve been injured and need long-term steroid treatment, you can work with your doctor to adjust your diabetes medication or insulin to keep your blood sugar under control.
2. Beta-Blockers- These drugs are used to treat conditions such as irregular heart rhythms or anxiety.
This is a large class of drugs used to lower blood pressure and treat other conditions, such as irregular heartbeats and anxiety, but they can also raise your blood sugar levels.
- While some beta-blockers have less of an effect on blood glucose than others, these are sometimes more expensive and may not be covered by insurance.
In addition, it’s important to note that beta-blockers can mask tachycardia (a very fast heartbeat) which is usually associated with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Fortunately, there are alternatives for beta-blockers that might be used instead for people with Type 2 Diabetes.
3. Statins to Help Lower LDL or ‘Bad,’ Cholesterol Levels
Statins are used as a necessary therapy for preventing heart disease and stroke. But they can also increase blood sugar levels, and for people with prediabetes, using a Statin is linked with a greater risk of developing full-blown diabetes.
A study published in October 2017 which tracked people with prediabetes for 10 years, found that statin use was associated with a 30% higher risk of developing diabetes.
However, the study emphasizes that heart attacks and strokes are major killers for people with diabetes, and, unfortunately, there aren’t good alternative drugs for statins at this time.
I agree with the study’s conclusion that “The benefits of heart attack and stroke prevention far outweigh the risk of elevated blood glucose levels.”
4. Niacin to Bring Down LDL (bad) Cholesterol
- Niacin is a B vitamin available as an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement. It can have cholesterol-lowering effects, but like statins, it can also raise blood glucose in people with diabetes.
A study published in February 2016 in the journal Heart also concluded that niacin increases the risk of developing diabetes in the first place.
5. Antipsychotics to Treat Mental Illnesses, Such as Schizophrenia
Certain antipsychotic drugs, which are used to treat schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, can increase your blood sugar levels.
- Those types of medications are typically used for months or years at a time, so it’s definitely an issue to be aware of and thoroughly discuss with the prescribing physician.
6. Certain Antibiotics which are taken for infections, such as Urinary Tract Infections and Pneumonia.
One class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones used to treat illnesses like pneumonia and urinary tract infections (UTIs) have been shown to cause both very low and high blood sugar.
7. Decongestants for relief from the common cold or Flu can increase your blood sugar levels. They are available over the counter, although medications with pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), has to be requested from a pharmacist.
- Short-term use of these is probably okay but check with your doctor first.
Tips for Managing Medications That Affect Blood Glucose
Despite these risks, you may find yourself needing to take one of these drugs while managing diabetes. Fortunately, you can take a few steps to help keep your blood sugar control, including the following:
➡ Pause before immediately taking a new medication: Always consult the pharmacist or your doctor before starting any new over-the-counter medication
➡ Clear it with your main diabetes doctor.
If a specialist, like an orthopedist or a psychiatrist, prescribes a medication, check in with your certified diabetes educator or primary care doctor to confirm that it’s okay to take and to coördinate any necessary adjustments to your diabetes medication.
Take care of yourself.
➡ Prioritize diet and exercise if you’re taking a medication that may affect your blood sugar control.
➡ Physical activity and healthy nutrition help to prevent significant blood sugar spikes, so you may not have to make an aggressive change in your medication schedule.