Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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How to Avoid Errors in Diabetes Care

by Patrick J. O'Connor, MD, MPH, JoAnn M. Sperl-Hillen, MD, and Becky Klein, RN CDE

To do your part in avoiding medication errors, do the following:

  • Tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you are taking. Bring a list of all of your medicines to your appointments, or bring the drugs themselves (in their original containers).
  • Fill all of your prescriptions at one pharmacy, if possible. This makes it easier for your pharmacist to detect potential problems.
  • Keep an up-to-date list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. This can be particularly useful if you need emergency medical care.
  • Talk to your doctor before starting any dietary or herbal supplements. Certain ones are known to interact with prescription drugs.
  • When you refill your prescriptions, note whether your pills (or insulin) look different from those you normally take. If they do, check it out with your pharmacist.
  • Don’t stop taking a prescribed medicine because you feel better. Many drugs, including those prescribed to help with blood glucose, blood pressure, or blood cholesterol control, are needed to maintain desirable levels once they have been attained. Stopping other drugs, such as some antidepressants, abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms.

To learn more about the medicines you take, read the information sheets given out with prescriptions by your pharmacist, or talk to your doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator about your medicines. Web sites such as www.webmd.com and www.diabetes.org also offer reliable drug information.

Remember, however, that the information you find on any Web site or book is general information, and that you are an individual with your own personal needs and response to medicines. So talk over what you learn, and your questions, with your doctor.

Avoiding complacency
It’s tempting to think that once you’ve gotten things under control, you can just keep on doing what you’re doing forever. But diabetes usually progresses over time, and over the years you will most likely need to increase your medicine doses or add additional medicines to reach your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol goals — even if you are eating right and getting regular physical activity. It would be a mistake for you and your diabetes care team not to pay attention to blood glucose levels that are gradually creeping up or to any other changes that might indicate that your regimen needs updating. Such changes might include rises in your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, or weight or the onset of any diabetes complications.

Even when your blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol are at goal levels, you should have regular (annual or as recommended by your health-care provider) eye exams, foot exams, and tests for microalbuminuria (traces of protein in the urine that signal a higher risk for kidney and heart disease) to check for the presence of diabetes complications. When caught early, diabetes complications are much more treatable.

One often-dreaded change to a person’s Type 2 diabetes regimen is the advice to start using insulin. The specific source of dread may be different for different people. Some people, for example, fear needles, while others equate insulin use with more severe disease or fear that the use of insulin may actually lead to complications rather than prevent them. Whatever the cause for resistance, the facts are that many if not most people with Type 2 diabetes eventually require insulin and that the use of insulin can lead to improved control and better quality of life.

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Avoiding Medication Mistakes



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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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