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Life with Diabetes- Medications side effects


Last week I was on my soapbox about taking medications. I hope I did not offend anyone, but this is something I care very deeply about. I have a healthy respect for medications-I believe they can do the world of good when the right one is chosen and taken appropriately, but I also know that all medications have potential side effects and should not be taken carelessly.{{more}}

Before I go through a discussion about groups of diabetes medications (which we will start next week), we should first speak about side effects. If you are one of those people who reads the package insert (that piece of paper with all the fine print) you will scare yourself to death while trying to educate yourself. Please know that drug companies are required to print EVERY documented side effect reported to them by a doctor or patient. The most common are usually listed first, as well as the serious common ones. The least common are listed last. Rare but serious ones are often listed in a separate paragraph.

The rare frightening ones usually get our attention fast: “I could get WHAT???” But please keep in mind that your chances of having that rare reaction are very small.

Your doctor’s job is to choose the best medication for your situation, taking into account many factors including how well the medication should work for you, possible side effects, your kidney and liver functions, any other illnesses that you have which could complicate matters (like heart failure), cost, dosing etc. It is a big stew pot of factors that your doctor should sort through, and then prescribe the best medication he/she thinks will help you.

Your responsibility in this scenario is two-fold:

1) Be upfront and honest about other medications you are taking, herbs and other medical history. With-holding information can be very dangerous because your doctor relies on that as a basis for many decisions

2) Ask questions and admit to uncertainties. I have changed recommendations after patients admitted they could not remember to take a pill four times a day. I have also stayed late in clinic going through a paper bag of medications when the patient didn’t know which pill was what. This is important stuff-your doctor and nurse are there to help you. Do not be embarrassed to ask questions. And make sure you know the best time and way to take the medications (with food or not, with other medications or not etc)

Once you start a new medication, be vigilant but not half-crazed looking for side effects. Issues that may arise without symptoms, like early changes on liver function, will be monitored by blood tests your doctor will request. If you have ANY concerns please contact your doctor or go to your nearest clinic.

Other important things:

1) Your doctor should always know when you stop a medication. You might need to be checked for other side effects, and you will likely need a replacement.

2) Know that some side effects are short-lived, meaning they go away after a few days and are not serious. Not sure about yours? Ask!

Until next week, take care Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group
Tel: 843-798-4227