Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Diamox & Diabetes

Diamox has both positive and negative consequences for people who are diabetic.

Diamox is the brand name of a drug that is used for many purposes, but primarily for the relief of glaucoma. Taking it has significant consequences--both positive and negative--for diabetes patients. The drug can cause both an increase and a decrease in blood sugar, the hallmark of disease, and the primary cause of the numerous problems associated with the disease. The irony is that people who are diabetics are also at increased risk of developing glaucoma, and the way Diamox works has been shown to be promising for treatment.


According to the National Library of Medicine, Diamox is a brand of acetazolamide, which is a type of carbonic anydrase inhibitors. It’s most widely used to relieve the pressure on the eye caused by glaucoma. However, the medicine is also an anticonvulsant, used by people who have epilepsy to control seizures. It’s also used to mitigate the symptoms of altitude sickness. Furthermore, it’s a diuretic. It is available in the United States by prescription only.


With type 2 diabetes, the most common and almost entirely preventable form of the disease, the body does not produce enough insulin or improperly regulates insulin, which helps the body use blood sugar for energy. Instead, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being transported to cells, leading to the numerous complications of diabetes, including serious problems with the eyes, skin, kidneys and heart.

Diamox's Effects on Diabetes

People who take Diamox or any brand of acetazolamide or type of carbonic anydrase inhibitor must be educated about the serious side effects of the drug. They must especially monitor their blood sugar levels regularly, regardless of whether they have diabetes. Diamox has been shown to both increase and decrease blood sugar levels. It may be helpful to monitor urine for excess sugar and ketones, the presence of which signal some sort of metabolic abnormality, including diabetes.

Glaucoma and Diabetes

Glaucoma happens when pressure builds up in the eye. The pressure affects the blood vessels that transport blood to the retina, and over time this causes a loss of vision. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetics are diagnosed with glaucoma at a rate 40 percent greater than those who don’t have diabetes. In fact, among those with long-standing diabetes, glaucoma is quite common. Ironically, recent research has suggested carbonic anydrase inhibitors, like Diamox, show promise in treating diabetic retinopathy. This represents an unusual paradox. In nondiabetic people, Diamox’s side effects are so severe that if taken long term they can lead to the symptoms of diabetes, but at the same time diabetics are at a great risk of an eye complication, which Diamox treats.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you are being treated for glaucoma, mountain sickness or epilepsy, and you have any risk factor for diabetes, you must carefully consider all options if your doctor suggests you take Diamox. Be sure to inform your doctor if anyone in your family has diabetes. Ensure you understand your doctor’s dosing directives and that you follow them exactly. Ask your doctor how often you should come back for follow-up, and ask about tests the doctor can take to monitor how effective the medicine is at treating your problem. In addition, ask about monitor your blood sugar while you are taking the medication.

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