What Is the Relationship between Thiazides and Diabetes?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Research on the relationship between thiazides and diabetes suggests these diuretic medications may cause the onset of glucose intolerance in some patients. The precise mechanism of this link is a subject of research to determine whether it can be identified and prevented to allow patients to safely use thiazide medications. These drugs can be quite cost-effective and tend to work very well, making them a popular part of the formulary in some regions of the world even though they can pose risks to patients. People taking thiazides may need to be careful so they can identify warning signs of diabetes early in treatment.

Prolonged high blood sugar may cause vision problems in diabetics.
Prolonged high blood sugar may cause vision problems in diabetics.

Exploration of the connection between thiazides and diabetes indicates it may have something to do with the reduced potassium levels associated with these medications. Patients using thiazides to eliminate excess fluid from their bodies can develop hypokalemia, and this may contribute to the rise in blood sugar that can lead to diabetes. Supplementation with potassium during treatment is one way patients could potentially foil the link with thiazides and diabetes.

Diabetics who take a thiazide or any other medication must vigilantly monitor their blood glucose levels.
Diabetics who take a thiazide or any other medication must vigilantly monitor their blood glucose levels.

Diuretic medications can be useful in the management of a range of conditions, stimulating the kidneys to eliminate water instead of retaining it in the body. Awareness of side effects is important, as this can help medical providers determine the best medication for a given patient. Concern about thiazides and diabetes may lead a doctor to recommend a different medication with a lower risk for some patients. Someone with blood sugar that is already high, for instance, might be a bad candidate for the medication.

Those who are prescribed thiazides should have their blood tested regularly to check kidney function.
Those who are prescribed thiazides should have their blood tested regularly to check kidney function.

While taking thiazides, patients can receive regular blood tests to check on kidney function, confirming that the medication is not causing kidney problems. These tests can also be used to evaluate levels of potassium and other electrolytes in the blood, to determine if the patient is developing an imbalance. Blood sugar checks may be recommended as well if there are worries about thiazides and diabetes; if the patient’s glucose spikes, it may be time to switch to a different medication.

Diabetic patients may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion.
Diabetic patients may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion.

The onset of diabetes can be managed in a variety of ways. Patients may need to continue taking diuretics to manage an underlying health condition, but switching drugs could allow them to receive the benefit without the increased risk. Diet and exercise recommendations may help the patient control blood glucose, and medications could be considered as an option in patients who don't respond to conservative treatment.

Diuretic medications stimulate the kidneys to eliminate water instead of retaining it in the body.
Diuretic medications stimulate the kidneys to eliminate water instead of retaining it in the body.
Diabetics may be prone to developing infections following foot injuries.
Diabetics may be prone to developing infections following foot injuries.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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