If you have diabetes or high blood sugar, you probably know some of the things that cause your glucose (another name for blood sugar) to go up. Like a meal with too many carbohydrates, or not enough exercise. But other medicines you might take to keep yourself healthy can cause a spike, too.
Know Your Meds
Medicines you get with a prescription and some that you buy over the counter (OTC) can be a problem for people who need to control their blood sugar.
Prescription medicines that can raise your glucose include:
- Steroids (also called corticosteroids). They treat diseases caused by inflammation, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and allergies. Common steroids include hydrocortisone and prednisone. But steroid creams (for a rash) or inhalers (for asthma) aren’t a problem.
- Drugs that treat anxiety, ADHD, depression, and other mental health problems. These can include clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, and risperidone.
- Birth control pills
- Drugs that treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and thiazide diuretics
- Statins to lower cholesterol
- Adrenaline for severe allergic reactions
- High doses of asthma medicines, or drugs that you inject for asthma treatment
- Isotretinoin for acne
- Tacrolimus, which you get after an organ transplant
- Some medicines that treat HIV and hepatitis C
OTC medicines that can raise your blood sugar include:
- Pseudoephedrine, a decongestant in some cold and flu medicines
- Cough syrup. Ask your doctor if you should take regular or sugar-free.
- Niacin, a B vitamin
How Do You Decide What to Take?
Even though these medicines can raise your blood sugar, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take them if you need them. The most important thing is to work with your doctor on the right way to use them.
If you have diabetes or you’re watching your blood sugar, ask your doctor before you take new medicines or change any medicines, even if it’s just something for a cough or cold. (Remember, just being sick can raise your blood sugar.)
Make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you take — for diabetes or any other reason. If one of them may affect your blood sugar, they may prescribe a lower dose or tell you to take the medicine for a shorter time. You may need to check your blood sugar more often while you’re taking the medicine, too.
Also, remember to do the things you know will help keep your levels under control. Exercise, eat right, and take any diabetes medicines that you need.
- American Diabetes Association: “Factors Affecting Blood Glucose.”
- CDC: Basics About Diabetes, “What is diabetes?”
- Diatribe: “How many factors actually affect blood glucose?”
- Diabetes Forecast: “Medications That Raise Blood Glucose,” “Over-the-Counter Meds that Raise Blood Sugar.”
- NPS Medicinewise: “Medicines that affect blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes.”
- National Institutes of Health AIDS info: “HIV and Diabetes.”
- UIC Center on Psychiatric Disability and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions: “Psychiatric Meds & Diabetes.”
- Mayo Clinic: “Niacin (vitamin B3, nicotinic acid).”
- National Institute of Mental Health: “Mental Health Medications.”
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