Diabetes is a condition that requires constant monitoring. You have to check your blood sugar levels regularly for signs of high or low blood sugar. But what about if you are taking any medications at the same time? And what if they also influence your glucose levels? Many over-the-counter drugs may have serious side effects, especially if prescribed to someone with a chronic condition like Diabetes Mellitus. To help you better understand the influence of OTC medications, we’ve created this article about which ones are generally not recommended.
Main Health Concerns
In general, all OTC medications should be taken with caution. Diabetes can make certain drugs less effective or even dangerous. This is why you need to manage diabetes-related medications safely. Also, consider these 3 main health concerns regarding OTC meds:
- Certain drugs can severely affect blood sugar levels. For example, decongestants and antihistamines may cause blood sugar to spike, while pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen interfere with the action of diabetes medications. This can make it difficult for people with diabetes to manage their glucose levels and increases the risk of developing complications.
- OTC medications can cause complications with diabetes-related health issues. As people with diabetes are at a higher risk of kidney damage, the widely spread aspirin further influences kidney function. Additionally, some cardiovascular OTC meds increase the risk of bleeding or blood clots, so they should be avoided as well.
- Some OTCMs interact with diabetes-prescribed medications, making them less effective or even dangerous. For example, when taken in parallel, certain cold and flu drugs may cause blood sugar spikes, while others can directly interfere with the absorption of diabetes medications. This makes it difficult for people with diabetes to manage their condition and can also increase the risk of developing complications.
The Most Used OTC Medications and Their Effect
It’s important to note that these are just a few examples and not a comprehensive list of OTC medications that people with diabetes should avoid. Always consult your doctor before taking any OTC meds. They can help you better understand different drugs’ potential risks and benefits and recommend safe and effective alternatives.
- Decongestants and Antihistamines: commonly used to relieve symptoms of colds and allergies, but they can cause blood sugar spikes. This is because they stimulate the release of the hormone epinephrine, which raises glucose levels. Additionally, decongestants and antihistamines increase the risk of developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) if taken in combination with certain diabetes medications.
- Aspirin: a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) commonly used as a pain reliever to reduce the risk of heart attacks. However, for people with diabetes, aspirin is the main cause of further kidney damage as it also increases the risk of bleeding. This is because diabetes affects blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the kidneys, making them more vulnerable to further injury.
- Ibuprofen and Naproxen: also NSAIDs that interfere with the action of diabetes medications and increase the risk of developing hypoglycemia. These drugs cause the liver to produce more glucose, raising blood sugar levels.
- Cold and Flu Medications: usually cause blood sugar spikes and interact with diabetes medications. As many of them contain decongestants and antihistamines, they often cause glucose levels to rise. Additionally, some cold and flu medications contain acetaminophen, which can interfere with the action of diabetes drugs.
- Laxatives: commonly used to relieve constipation, but for people with diabetes, they can pose a potential risk. These drugs promote bowel movement, leading to the body’s loss of fluids and electrolytes. The main cause here is a decrease in blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia. Moreover, some laxatives can also get in the way of the absorption of diabetes medications, which affects their treatment effectiveness and potentially makes it difficult for people with diabetes to manage their condition.
Tracking Medications Intake
One helpful solution for keeping up with all diabetes-related medications is to use the Diabetes:M app. It allows you to have all your medications at a glance and provides a log of blood sugar levels, carbohydrate intake, and physical activity. This helps the tremendous effort of you and your doctor to make more informed decisions about your treatment plan and ensure that you are taking the right medications at the right times without them causing any unwanted side effects. Diabetes:M is compatible with Android & iOS and is available for free download from here.
If you have diabetes and are taking any OTC medications, be sure to tell your doctor. Knowing which over-the-counter medications may cause adverse effects in people with diabetes is important to avoid serious health problems. You should also be aware of how your body responds when taking these drugs and report them to a medical professional.