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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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August 2003

Q. I have been taking Prednisone long-term for rheumatoid arthritis and have now been diagnosed as borderline diabetic. I have none of the classic symptoms of diabetes (overweight, excessive thirst, etc.) My physician has referred me to a dietician. Will a change of diet help if the diabetes is triggered by Prednisone use? My diet now is very low in fat and sodium with very little use of sugar.

A. Prednisone can indeed interfere with the metabolism of carbohydrates and lead to elevated blood sugar. This is true for patients taking prednisone on a long-term basis as you describe. A healthy diet and maintaining optimal weight will certainly help, but may not be sufficient to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Arrange a meeting with a dietician to learn the diet guidelines for diabetes as this will help although medication may still be needed. Type 2 diabetes which usually starts in adulthood and is treated with diet, lifestyle modification, and oral medication affects about 16 million Americans.



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