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Managing Diabetes with the Help of Your Pharmacist

Managing Diabetes with the Help of Your Pharmacist

People with a new diagnosis of diabetes often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they have to assimilate. They must learn how diabetes affects them and how to effectively manage it through changes in lifestyle and often with the help of medication. Fortunately, in Tompkins County, people with diabetes have knowledgeable professionals to help them, including doctors, nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists.

To understand diabetes treatment, you must first understand the two major types of diabetes. One out of ten people with diabetes has type 1, which is typically diagnosed before age 30, but can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes results from an absence of insulin, which means insulin is always required to treat it.

Nine out of ten people with diabetes have type 2, which is typically diagnosed after age 40 but is now being seen as early as age eight. About eight out of ten people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for the worldwide diabetes epidemic, results from a combination of insulin resistance and insulin deficiency. In contrast to type 1 diabetes, which always requires insulin, type 2 is more complex. It may be controlled through diet and exercise, or it may require oral medicines or insulin.

Managing diabetes is extremely important. Large-scale clinical trials have conclusively shown that tight control of blood glucose in type 1 and type 2 diabetes helps prevent long-term complications such as blindness, kidney failure, or the need for amputation. However, many people with type 2 diabetes wait too long to start oral diabetes medicine when it is clear that their diabetes is not sufficiently controlled with diet and exercise. Similarly, many people wait too long to start insulin when oral medicines are not doing an adequate job.

The role of your pharmacist

The role of the pharmacist has changed in recent years. We go beyond simply ensuring that there are no “problems” with a given prescription and asking if you have any questions. Today’s pharmacists have more information about your medical condition and the goals of your drug therapy. Pharmacists are likely now to play a more active, collaborative role with physicians to ensure that the ordered medicine is appropriate for meeting your specific treatment goals while minimizing the risk of adverse effects. This includes ensuring that you understand the goal of your drug therapy, how your medicine works, and what to look for in terms of intended results and possible adverse effects.

The treatment of diabetes and its related conditions (including hypertension and high cholesterol) and potential complications (including neuropathies and gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach is dilated and stomach contents are retained) may require using many medicines appropriately. This is one reason why pharmacists play an important role in diabetes education. In addition, there are now more choices of oral diabetes medicines, including medicines that work by reducing insulin resistance, and your pharmacist can talk with you about the potential advantages and special characteristics of the newer medicines. Your pharmacist can also help you learn about new devices that can make it easier to take insulin no matter where you are.

To find out more about diabetes and our education classes for newly diagnosed diabetics and their families, just search our Web site, with the key word "diabetes."

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