By: Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP
In our last discussion, we reviewed relevant oral medication therapy for diabetes. This week, let us examine the injectable therapy that is the next step medication when oral medication does not control the condition well. Source is from the Mayo Clinic.
Some people who have type 2 diabetes need insulin therapy. In the past, insulin therapy was used as a last resort, but today it may be prescribed sooner if blood sugar targets aren’t met with lifestyle changes and other medications.
Different types of insulin vary on how quickly they begin to work and how long they have an effect. Long-acting insulin, for example, is designed to work overnight or throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. Short-acting insulin might be used at mealtime.
Your doctor will determine what type of insulin is appropriate for you and when you should take it. Your insulin type, dosage and schedule may change depending on how stable your blood sugar levels are. Most types of insulin are taken by injection.
Side effects of insulin include the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), diabetic ketoacidosis and high triglycerides.
Women with type 2 diabetes will likely need to change their treatment plans and adhere to diets that carefully controls carbohydrate intake. Many women will need insulin therapy during pregnancy and may need to discontinue other treatments, such as blood pressure medications.
There is an increased risk during pregnancy of developing diabetic retinopathy or a worsening of the condition. If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, visit an ophthalmologist during each trimester of your pregnancy, one year postpartum or as advised.
Signs of trouble
Regularly monitoring your blood sugar levels is important to avoid severe complications. Also, be aware of signs and symptoms that may suggest irregular blood sugar levels and the need for immediate care:
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Eating certain foods or too much food, being sick, or not taking medications at the right time can cause high blood sugar. Signs and symptoms include:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). This life-threatening condition includes a blood sugar reading higher than 600 mg/dL (33.3 mmol/L). HHNS may be more likely if you have an infection, are not taking medicines as prescribed, or take certain steroids or drugs that cause frequent urination. Signs and symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Extreme thirst
- Dark urine
Diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when a lack of insulin results in the body breaking down fat for fuel rather than sugar. This results in a buildup of acids called ketones in the bloodstream. Triggers of diabetic ketoacidosis include certain illnesses, pregnancy, trauma and medications — including the diabetes medications called SGLT2 inhibitors.
Although diabetic ketoacidosis is usually less severe in type 2 diabetes, the toxicity of the acids can be life-threatening. In addition to the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as frequent urination and increased thirst, ketoacidosis may result in:
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fruity-smelling breath
Low blood sugar. If your blood sugar level drops below your target range, it’s known as low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Your blood sugar level can drop for many reasons, including skipping a meal, unintentionally taking more medication than usual or being more physical activity than usual. Signs and symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Heart palpitations
- Slurred speech
If you have signs or symptoms of low blood sugar, drink or eat something that will quickly raise your blood sugar level — fruit juice, glucose tablets, hard candy or another source of sugar. Retest your blood in 15 minutes. If levels are not at your target, repeat the sugar intake. Eat a meal after levels return to normal.
If you lose consciousness, you will need to be given an emergency injection of glucagon, a hormone that stimulates the release of sugar into the blood.
Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: review the signs and symptoms of excessive high or low sugar.
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