It’s no secret that a nutritious diet and regular exercise are vital for good health, and especially important in managing diabetes. However, sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough, and your doctor might add medication to your treatment plan. Unfortunately, this is often not as easy as taking a single daily tablet, and your diabetes medications chart could get a little complicated. But don’t worry – this doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds!
The range of medicines available for diabetes is quite broad, and your doctor will decide which ones are most suited to you. As these medications are intended to help control your blood glucose levels, it’s important that you take them as prescribed. If you take them incorrectly, they may be less effective, or you may be at increased risk of adverse effects. This is why it’s important to have a clear diabetes medications chart, and become familiar with every aspect of it.
Here we’ll take a look at some of the things that are important to know about diabetes medications, and go over some tips to help you follow your diabetes medications chart.
Doses and dosing schedules
Some diabetes medications are just taken once daily, but others may need to be taken several times a day. If a dose needs to be taken just once daily, your doctor might recommend taking it at a particular time, such as in the morning, or at night. Otherwise, just try to choose a time that suits you, and will be easy for you to remember. It’s best to try to take medicines at approximately the same time every day.
When to take medicines in relation to food
This is particularly important to know for insulins, as they vary in how quickly they act. For example, ultra-short-acting insulin should only be administered immediately before a meal. Short-acting insulin, however, can be given up to 30 minutes before eating. At the other end of the spectrum, long-acting insulin generally only needs to be administered once or twice daily. Your doctor will advise of the best time to have your dose(s).
Similarly, different tablets have different guidelines for when they should be taken, and this information should be documented in your diabetes medications chart. For example, most sulfonylureas, such as gliclazide, should always be taken with food. This is because of their potential to cause hypoglycaemia (excessively low blood glucose levels). An exception to this is glipizide, which is best taken about 30 minutes before a meal to optimise absorption.
Metformin, another commonly used medication for diabetes, should also always be taken with food. However, this is to reduce the likelihood of adverse effects, such as stomach upset, rather than for absorption or to reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia. Generally, metformin will not cause hypoglycaemia unless combined with certain other medications.
There are also medicines that may be taken either with or without food. However, you might find it useful to take these with a meal to help you remember to take them every day.
Knowing what to take and when to have each dose is very important, but knowing how to take your diabetes medications will affect the way your body absorbs it. Absorption is a vital step in the process! Some tablets (such as metformin) are available in both slow-release and immediate-release formulations. This distinction should be clearly recorded on your diabetes medications chart.
Slow-release or long-acting tablets should never be crushed or chewed. Doing so would compromise their slow-release properties, and may cause your body to absorb the drug too quickly. If you’re having trouble swallowing your tablets whole, please discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist. Some slow-release tablets can be safely halved.
Similarly, diabetes medications that are given by injection must be injected correctly in order to produce the desired effects. Insulin and exenatide are both administered via subcutaneous injection (injected just under the skin). If you have been prescribed either of these, you should talk to a healthcare professional about correct administration technique. They might recommend gently pinching the skin around the site of injection, and using a specific needle length. It’s also important to rotate the site of injection, aiming to inject the next dose at least a few centimetres away from the site of the previous doses.
All medicines have a specific expiry date, which is set based on their date of manufacture, assuming certain storage requirements are met. Many tablets can be safely kept at room temperature (which usually means about 25oC) without compromising the product. However, there are many seemingly safe places that regularly get much hotter than this. For example, some people keep medication in their bathrooms or cars – places they’ll to go to every day. Unfortunately these places can get very hot and humid, and this can alter the properties of medication, potentially making them ineffective and/or unsafe.
Write it all down
One of the best ways to optimise your medication management is to become very familiar with your diabetes medications chart. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help write this out for you, or fill in any blanks you might have. Remember to include any complementary medicines or supplements too.
Additionally, try to stick with the same doctor and pharmacy as much as possible, so that they can become familiar with your treatment. This puts them in a better position to help you, and discuss any concerns you might have.
Having a written medications record can also become very useful if you’re travelling, or need to go to hospital. This will ensure nothing is forgotten, and you can continue your therapy as prescribed. Similarly, surgeons, dentists and other health professionals may need to know your medication history to perform their jobs safely and effectively.
Of course, your diabetes medications chart and medicines records don’t have to be physically written down. There are apps you can use to record all of this information, making it both easily portable and accessible. There are also apps available to help set reminders for medication doses, prescription refills, and doctor appointments. These will help minimise interruptions to treatment, and hence optimise your diabetes management.
Let’s talk about your diabetes medications chart!
Remember that, as health professionals, we’re here to help you. If you require clarification about your diabetes medications chart, or you’re having difficulty with doses, please talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Likewise, if you have concerns about side effects, your doctor or pharmacist can help you with this as well.
You can find a lot of information online too, but sometimes the information can be conflicting, or overwhelming to sift through. It’s always best to check with a qualified healthcare professional who understands your health. Just as everyone’s lives are different, everyone’s experience with diabetes is also different. This makes personalised advice all the more important. (For personalised dietary advice, the GlycoLeap app is a convenient and useful option.)
Diabetes medications charts might seem complicated, but diabetes management doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful at all. Just follow these tips, read more here about diabetes medications that help with weight loss, and have a chat to your healthcare team about any concerns. We’re here to help!