Diabetics who experience episodes of very low blood sugar levels are more likely to develop several related complications and die within five years, according to recent research.
Type 2 diabetics who experienced severe hypoglycemia were more likely in the study to have heart attacks, strokes, eye problems, kidney damage and die than those who didn’t have an episode, according to research published today in the New England Journal of Medicine . Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar in the body drops so much it causes fatigue, weakness and even unconsciousness.
About 23.6 million children and adults in the U.S., or 7.8 percent of the population, have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. It is unclear whether hypoglycemia causes the complications seen in the study or whether it is just a marker indicating the impact of the diabetes, the authors wrote.
"What we might be doing is just identifying people who are very sick," Simon Heller, a study author and a professor of clinical diabetes at the University of Sheffield in the U.K., said yesterday in a telephone interview. "We have to be a little cautious in saying that hypoglycemia causes death. Nevertheless, hypoglycemia is bad news."
Diabetes occurs when the body is unable to metabolize sugar to make fuel for cells’ energy. If unused sugar builds up in the bloodstream, it can cause complications such as eye disease and kidney damage.
Lowering Blood Sugar
Physicians often try to reduce diabetics’ blood sugar to a level close to normal in the hopes of preventing heart attacks and strokes, Heller said. Research such as that published today shows that in some patients lowering blood sugar too much may instead cause heart attacks and even death.
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