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Medications That Raise Blood Sugar Levels

written by: Sarah Mitchell • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/14/2011

In an effort to prevent, cure or provide symptomatic relief for a variety of healthcare reasons, medications are generally sought after; however, diabetics must be cautious since there are known medications that raise blood sugar levels, or glucose levels, often referred to as hyperglycemia.

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    Diabetes Symptoms: Blood Sugar Levels and Hyperglycemia

    Monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels are crucial steps in diabetes management, with an assigned target level generally determined by a physician. From time to time, patients may experience abnormally high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), a risky extreme for diabetics. Prolonged hyperglycemia, can lead to diabetes symptoms, including increased thirst and/or urination, dry mouth or skin, blurred vision, fatigue, and cuts or sores that will not heal.

    Hyperglycemia causes may derive from a number of sources, such as prediabetes, pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, glucagonoma, hyperthyroidism, eating excess food, inactivity, stress and injuries. Ironically, medicinal therapy – known to improve the quality of life – is recognized as a potential culprit, including both prescribed and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. It is important to determine the underlying cause to eradicate such high readings.

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    Medications That Raise Blood Sugar Levels

    The following classes have a history of causing hyperglycemia:

    Oral Contraceptives

    One method of birth control, oral contraceptives are comprised of synthetic hormones, typically produced by women. Oral contraceptives generally contain both estrogen and progesterone, or progesterone solely. Additional progesterone and increased estrogen entering the body have been linked to increased blood sugars.

    Atypical Antipsychotics

    Used to treat psychotic conditions, such as schizophrenia and manic depression (bipolar disorder), antipsychotics affect the brain’s chemical actions, thus, providing symptomatic relief. Diabetics taking an antipsychotic -- particularly risperidone, olanzapine and clozapine -- are advised to check their blood sugar levels often.[1,2]

    Corticosteroids

    Non-anabolic steroids come in a variety of forms--injection, pill, liquid and inhaled--treating symptoms resulting from upper respiratory and inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, COPD, arthritis and psoriasis. Due to known affiliated side effects, they should not be taken for long periods. Hyperglycemia and steroid-induced diabetes mellitus have occurred in patients with preexisting diabetes or prediabetics, respectively.

    Diuretics

    Diuretics, or “water pills", remove excess bodily fluids and are commonly prescribed for Meniere’s disease, edema, and heart and lung conditions. They suppress the body’s insulin production, boosting blood glucose levels.

    Phenothiazines

    Used to treat seizures, phenothiazines are known to worsen blood sugar levels when used on a consistent basis. This particular category interacts with several antidiabetic medications, including glipizide, glyburide, acarbose, as well as classes:

    • Sulfonylureas
    • Insulin
    • Glitazones
    • Oral hypoglycemics
    • Meglitinides.[3]

    Beta Blockers

    Patients with a history of coronary-related conditions, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure and chest pain (angina), may be prescribed a beta-blocker to alleviate stress on the heart. According to Dr. Domenic Sica of the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, some beta-blockers have the potential of inducing diabetes in someone with prediabetes, as well as influencing blood sugar levels in a preexisting diabetic.[4]

    Other

    Medications that raise blood sugars also include diazoxide, dextrose, epinephrine, glucagon, isoniazid, lithium, phenytoin, triamterene, furosemide and nicotinic acid.[5]

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    Conclusion

    Patients on any of the above medications should be closely monitored. If a medication is causing hyperglycemia, the patient’s health care provider may recommend a medication combination to lower his or her blood glucose, a medication switch or a complete halt.

    Disclaimer: Do not stop any medication unless directed to do so by a licensed physician. The preceding information presented is for educational purposes and should not replace the advice and care of a health care provider.

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    References

    MedlinePlus. “Glucose test – blood", http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003482.htm.[1]

    PubMed.gov. “Metabolic effects associated with atypical antipsychotic treatment in the developmentally disabled", http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16187775.[2]

    MEDSort Drugs. “Drug Category Information Page: Phenothiazines", http://drugs.medsort.com/drugs/ClassProfile.aspx?ClassID=22&uo=pt&mmp=3&mcp=1.[3]

    ABCNews. “Is it True That Beta Blockers Increase My Risk of Developing Diabetes?" http://abcnews.go.com/Health/HypertensionTreatment/story?id=5234255.[4]

    South Dakota Diabetes Prevention and Control Program. Recommendations for Management of Diabetes in South Dakota, 2008.[5]

    Patient Resources

    Joslin Diabetes Center, http://www.joslin.org/.

    American Diabetes Association, http://www.diabetes.org/.

    Diabetes Forecast Magazine, http://forecast.diabetes.org/.

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