If you have diabetes and are anticipating a hospital stay, you may be wondering how to manage your condition while you’re hospitalized.
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To help you prepare, we’ve asked endocrinologist Mary Vouyiouklis Kellis, MD, to answer six frequently asked questions about diabetes and hospital stays.
1. How often will my blood sugar be checked?
“If you’re on insulin while hospitalized, you can expect to have your blood sugar tested at least four times daily,” Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis says. “This will occur right before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner and at bedtime. It may also be tested at other times of the day if, for example, you’re having symptoms of low blood sugar.”
2. Why does my blood sugar have to be tested at specific times?
“Your blood sugar is tested before meals and at bedtime to ensure that you receive the proper insulin coverage,” says Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis.
“If your blood sugar is high before a meal, you will typically be given slightly more insulin in addition to your mealtime insulin to cover the high blood sugar reading. If your blood sugar is low, it will be corrected prior to any insulin being given to prevent low blood glucose. The same is true for bedtime testing. It’s important ensure that there is no low blood sugar right before going to sleep.”
3. Do I need to bring my medications to the hospital?
“No, you do not need to bring your medications or other diabetic supplies to the hospital,” Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis says. “Everything will be supplied by the hospital.”
4. Is there anything special I should bring to the hospital?
“It’s very important that you bring an updated medication list to the hospital so your doctor and nurses know exactly what you’re taking at home,” says Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis. “The reason for this is we often have you resume your usual home diabetes regimen at discharge unless there has been a significant change in your blood sugars while hospitalized.”
5. Will I get the same amount of insulin in the hospital as I get at home?
“In some cases, you may be given more insulin while you’re in the hospital than you take when you’re at home,” Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis says.
“For example, if you’re admitted for a surgical procedure or a severe illness, your blood sugar may rise due to the ‘stress’ of the surgery or illness. Also, medications that are started in the hospital can sometimes have an effect on blood sugar levels. One example is steroids, which can cause blood glucose levels to rise.”
In other cases, you may be given less insulin. For example, if you have poor or decreased oral intake of food, or if you are not eating for any reason during the hospital stay.
If you’re having surgery or are in the ICU, you might be put on an “insulin drip.” This provides insulin intravenously at an hourly rate to help keep blood glucose levels within the normal range in critical settings.
6. What if I have questions about my diabetes while in the hospital?
“If you have any questions or issues about your diabetes regimen while hospitalized, talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis. “Your doctor can discuss it with you and address all of your concerns.”