Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Why Do I Have So Many Infections?

Thursday, 24 June 2010 09:01 AM

Question: I am a 70-year-old woman who has had four major infections within the past year. I have been on many antibiotics as well as pain medications.
I was hospitalized for 13 days with a serious staph infection. My (new) primary care doctor said that my blood sugar levels indicated prediabetes and put me on a very low dose of Glucophage. I was about 60 pounds overweight, so I put myself on a low-carb diet, with his blessing.
I have lost about 20 pounds in the last four months, and my blood sugars have been getting much lower — the lowest reading was 43. He wants me to continue on the Glucophage until we check my A1C levels again. He checked them after two months and they were fine at 5.8. I have three questions:
(1) Could the antibiotics and pain meds have caused the "prediabetic" sugar levels?
(2) Should I be concerned about so many infections, and what could be causing them?
(3) What can I do to help myself?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Congratulations!! If your HBA1C is 5.8 and you have lost 20 of the 60 pounds you plan to lose, now would be a good time to stop your Glucophage. You probably can do without the Glucophage while you observe for effects on your sugar levels.

Appetite suppression is a side effect of Glucophage, and this may be the reason your doctor is encouraging you to keep taking it.

Yes, sugar levels are affected by the presence of stress and infection.

You are right to search for the cause of your infections, since diabetes does not seem to be the only reason in your case. Resistant staph infections are now seen frequently and are largely the product of the overzealous use of antibiotics.

Methicillin resistant staph infections (MRSAs) are extremely contagious and difficult to eradicate. They do not always indicate immune deficiency. Victims of resistant staph infections often have their entire skin surface colonized by MRSA and usually carry the bacteria in the mucosal lining of the nose.

Treating the surface of the skin with Hibiclens three times weekly for several weeks combined with nasal Bactroban will help decrease the bacteria on your body. Prompt surgical drainage of MRSA lesions combined with appropriate medications will clear these skin infections quickly minimize their spread.

Continue your weight loss program (2-3 pounds per week is ideal). Once at your ideal body weight, you will likely not have to worry about being prediabetic. Be sure to start an exercise routine to help convert some of your fat stores to muscle, and consider checking your BMI (body mass index) and percentage of body fat. I prefer to monitor the percentage of body fat after 50 percent of planned weight loss is achieved. Here's to your health!!

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