By: Sue Carrington |

Quick read:

Diabetes occurs when the body’s blood sugar levels are above normal. Type 1 is due to the body’s inability to make insulin. Type 2 occurs from the body not responding to the effect of insulin. Managing blood sugar levels can become more difficult during hospitalization.

Full story:

Diabetes affects about 29 million Americans. It’s a complex disease that could become even more complicated for patients that are in the hospital.

What is diabetes?

It occurs when the body’s blood sugar levels are above normal. It’s brought on by the body not being able to make insulin, called type 1 diabetes, or the body not responding to the effect of insulin, called type 2 diabetes. Insulin is one of the main hormones that regulate blood sugar levels and helps our bodies use sugar, or glucose, for energy.

Why is blood sugar control so critical in the hospital?

As a diabetic, if you’re hospitalized for any reason you may experience new challenges. The stress of any acute illness tends to raise blood sugar levels.

If your blood sugar is too high, you’re at increased risk of infection and may be slower to heal. If your blood sugar is too low, you can experience severe side effects that need to be treated right away.

Can I continue taking my diabetes medications in the hospital?

If you take oral medications for your diabetes, you’ll likely be told to discontinue them during your hospital stay. Continued use of some drugs in the hospital could raise your risk of developing additional health problems. Insulin is usually the medicine of choice for diabetic patients in the hospital.

Will I receive IV treatments?

Throughout surgery, and after, you may receive insulin through an IV that slowly drips into your vein. Your care team will adjust the rate of the drip to maintain your blood sugar level within a target range.

If you’re diabetic and giving birth, an insulin drip may be used to control blood glucose levels during labor and delivery. If you have any digestive challenges, you may also receive nutrition through an IV.

What can I do to manage my diabetes in the hospital?

Whatever the reason for your hospital stay, treating your diabetes is an essential part of your care.

  • Speak up. Make sure your diabetes is clearly noted in your medical record and everyone on your care team knows about your condition, your medications, and any related complications.
  • Confirm that your blood glucose will be routinely monitored throughout your hospital stay, with results made available to all members of the care team.
  • Expect to receive a diabetes treatment plan explaining what you need to know when you’re discharged from the hospital.

By being proactive, you’ll have the best chance of reduced risk in the hospital – and a smooth recovery when you’re home. For more information on communicating with your medical team about your IV therapy, read How to Talk to Your Healthcare Professional.

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