Effect of Medicines
on Blood Sugar Levels and Diabetes
This handout explains how your body’s
blood sugar levels may change because of
medicines you are taking.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the way
your body uses food. Your body turns the
food you eat into a form of sugar called
glucose. The bloodstream carries glucose to
your body's cells. Insulin (a hormone
produced by the pancreas) helps glucose
enter your cells where it is changed into
energy and used or stored for future use.
If the body does not make enough insulin or
if the insulin doesn’t work as well as it
should, blood glucose builds up in the
bloodstream. This causes high blood glucose
Types of diabetes
1. Type 1
2. Type 2
3. Gestational (occurs during pregnancy)
4. Medicine induced
5. Stress or hospital-induced
What is medicine-induced diabetes?
High blood sugar levels can occur if you
start to take certain medicines like steroids.
Even though your body still makes insulin,
these medicines prevent insulin from
working well enough to keep blood sugar
What medicines might raise blood glucose
Cyclosporine (Neoral )
Tacrolimus (Prograf )
Prednisone or dexamethazone
What are the risk factors?
Age greater than 45
Glucose intolerance (fasting blood
A family history of type 2 diabetes
Ethnic background: African
American, Native American,
Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander,
What are normal blood sugar levels?
Fasting and before meals: 70 – 99
After meals: 70 – 140 mg/dL
Why does it matter?
Keeping blood glucose levels as normal as
possible will help you heal. Also, there is
less chance for problems like rejection and
infection. You might feel better and have
more energy when blood glucose levels are
Will I have diabetes forever?
Some people have high blood glucose levels
only when taking these drugs. Others may
still need to check blood glucose levels after
the drugs are stopped.
Steps for Managing Diabetes
1. Blood sugar monitoring at home
Many people are taught to use a
blood glucose meter to measure
blood sugar values at home. Results
should be written in a record book.
This book is reviewed at clinic visits
to decide on any changes in
2. Healthy eating
Limit your intake of high fat foods to
avoid weight gain. Also avoid foods
and drinks with sugar that cause a
rapid rise in blood sugar levels. We
suggest a weight loss program for
patients who are overweight. Even a
small weight loss can improve your
Activities such as walking or biking
burn sugar in your bloodstream. This
can help your blood sugar control
while taking medicines that raise
your blood sugar levels. Check your
blood glucose levels before, during,
and after activity. You may be at
risk for low blood sugars up to 24
hours after activity.
Before starting an activity program,
talk with your health care team about
any restrictions you may have.
4. Medicine (if needed)
Some people are able to control their
blood sugar levels with healthy
eating and more activity. Some
people need medicines to keep their
blood sugars controlled.
Pills – Diabetes pills work by
helping to make more insulin or by
helping insulin to work better. These
pills do not work for all patients.
Insulin - Some people must inject
insulin in order to control blood
sugar levels. You will be taught how
to do this if needed.
Blood sugar levels vary based on the
dose of medicine you are taking.
When your dose is large, your blood
sugar levels can be high. You might
need insulin. After the dose is
decreased, you may be able to
manage your blood sugars without
insulin or pills.
If you have any concerns or
questions, please feel free to ask
your health care team.
Association AD. Professional Practice Committee for the Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2016. Diabetes
Care. Jan 2016;39 Suppl 1:S107-108.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©3/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4451.