A spoonful of medicine makes the sugar go down

2011-08-08 00:00

IF you are diagnosed with diabetes, you may be given tablets to help you manage your diabetes. These tablets will work best when used with meal planning and exercise. Some people will find that their blood-sugar levels will come down well with these three therapies, others may need further input.

Diabetes is a progressive condition, and depending on how long you have had diabetes and what your medication was when you started, it may get to the stage that changes do need to be made. Sometimes it is enough to add an extra tablet to the ones you are already taking, and sometimes it may be necessary to start using insulin. Remember always that the aim is to keep the blood-sugar levels between four to eight mol/l, or at a level which you and your health-care team have decided on for you as an individual. The aim of the game is to prevent the complications of diabetes, and good control of the blood sugar is essential to achieve this.

Someone with diabetes is unable to process sugar from the blood into the cells where it is needed. In a Type 1 diabetic, this is due to lack of insulin, which is why it is necessary for them to have insulin regularly. In a Type 2 person, sometimes there is lack of insulin, and then they would also have to use insulin. But often there is insulin in the body, it is just not being used efficiently. The sugar is stuck in the blood, rather than getting into the cells where it is needed to give us energy. The tablets used in diabetes care help our bodies transport the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells where it becomes useful and not dangerous.

Some common names of oral medications used in diabetes are Metformin, Glucophage, Diamicron, Glicazide and Glamaryl. Your diabetes educator can teach you more about these medications. Sometimes these are also combined with two types of medication in one tablet.

Even though it is common in Type 2 diabetes to try tablets before you start insulin, you may be put on insulin if your blood glucose levels are too high in spite of the pills, you have had diabetes for a long time, you are taking other medicines which may interact with tablets or your overall health is showing signs of complications, such as kidney problems. Often the tablets will be continued in a lower dose or the same dose with the insulin. Different medications may have different effects and different side effects, so it is important to find the combination that is right for you.

There is always a risk that diabetes medication will interact with other medications, so it is important that you inform all your health-care team members of all the medications that you are taking. This includes over-the-counter medication and any natural products.

• See http://www.diabetes.org/living -with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication

• Kate Bristow is a nursing sister with a special interest in diabetes. She runs a centre for diabetes, affiliated to some medical aids, and has a private practice in Pietermaritzburg. She can be contacted at 082 406 8707.

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