People with diabetes are often prone to medical complications that relate only indirectly to their underlying condition. This can create a situation in which they have to take medication to treat other conditions in addition to their diabetes. One such drug is Welchol, which is used to help lower cholesterol and at times is prescribed specifically for patients with Type 2 diabetes.
Welchol is a drug designed to reduce cholesterol levels and help control blood sugar levels. It also goes by the generic name Colesevelam. In 2000, the FDA approved Welchol to be used to lower bad cholesterol. In 2008, the FDA also approved the drug as a method for lowering blood sugar. Welchol is available in two forms, a tablet and a powder that can be mixed in liquids.
Welchol is part of a class of drugs known as bile acid-binding resins. The liver uses cholesterol in order to make bile acid. The medication helps to remove bile acid from the body, forcing the liver to use cholesterol in order to make more bile acid. As a result, levels of cholesterol in the blood decrease. However, the science on how Welchol helps to reduce blood sugar levels is less clear.
Why Is This Prescribed?
Welchol is typically prescribed to patients who suffer from type 2 diabetes and have high cholesterol. It is one of the few medications that has been shown to be effective in lowering both blood sugar and LDL, which is also known as “bad” cholesterol. Welchol may also be effective in lowering LDL in some young people age 10 to 17 who suffer from heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disorder that can increase levels of LDL.
However, Welchol is most often used as a complementary medication. It is typically more effective at lowering LDL when used in conjunction with other cholesterol medications called statins. Diabetes patients should also use it in conjunction with other types of diabetes medications. It’s important to note that the effects of Welchol have not been studied when used in conjunction with all types of diabetes medications.
To be effective, Welchol should be taken on a regular basis, typically once or twice and accompanied by a meal. The full effects of the drug may not set in until after taking it regularly for several weeks. Taking Welchol should also be seen as one part of treating high cholesterol and diabetes, as it should be accompanied by regular exercise and a proper diet.
What Symptoms Does Welchol Treat?
The primary function of Welchol is to treat high levels of “bad” cholesterol. High cholesterol typically has few noticeable symptoms and can only be detected in blood tests. However, high levels of cholesterol can lead to blockages on arterial walls, which increases the chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Diabetes is one of the most common risk factors of high cholesterol, and so the two conditions are inherently linked. Having high blood sugar levels as a result of diabetes can lead to higher levels of LDL. High blood sugar can also damage the lining or arteries. Both of these increase the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke as a result of cholesterol.
Welchol can play a role in reducing the chances of adverse effects as a result of both high cholesterol and diabetes. By lowering cholesterol levels, Welchol helps to prevent clogged arteries. By helping to regulate blood sugar levels, Welchol further helps to reduce cholesterol levels, while also helping prevent damage to arteries.
Welchol is not suitable for everyone and does pose some potential risks. It is typically effective for patients with type 2 diabetes, but should not be used by patients with type 1 diabetes. Moreover, it’s not suitable for people with a history of stomach or bowel issues, including blockages or paralysis. Those with a history of pancreatitis or high levels of triglycerides should not take Welchol either.
It’s also possible that Welchol will not interact well with other medications. As mentioned above, it’s not been tested with every type of anti-diabetes medication. Low blood sugar levels are possible if Welchol is taken with other diabetes medications. Signs of dangerously low blood sugar include:
- Sudden sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
- Tingling in the hands or feet
- Blurred vision
It’s important to discuss other medications with a doctor or pharmacist to prevent adverse reactions. It’s also possible for certain ingredients in Welchol to cause allergic reactions in some patients. Allergic reactions are rare but can be serious. Seek immediate treatment if you experience symptoms of an allergy, including:
- Severe dizziness
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of the face, tongue, or throat
The most common side effects when taking Welchol are constipation and upset stomach. However, maintaining a diet that’s high in fiber and water intake can help prevent constipation, as can regular exercise. Long-term use of Welchol may also interfere with certain vitamins being properly absorbed by the body. This is often resolved by taking a multivitamin several hours before a dose of Welchol.