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Diabetics With Low Blood Sugar at Risk for Driving Accidents

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Every five minutes during the 30-minute tests, volunteers were asked to rate their symptoms, their driving ability, and their need to treat themselves (a soft drink was in the glove compartment). "They were continually being reminded," says Cox. "They were instructed that any time they couldn't drive, they should pull over and treat themselves. Yet only one-third of our volunteers both recognized their driving impairments and took corrective action."

During hypoglycemia, there was more driving off the road, more speeding, and brakes were used more often on the open road, says Cox. Fourteen volunteers (38%) demonstrated extreme impairments in their driving while hypoglycemic. For example, during the last 15 minutes of driving, volunteers failed to stop at stop signs significantly more often and were involved in more crashes at sudden stops.

The good news, says Cox, comes in identifying three primary symptoms that help people recognize they're in trouble: trembling, visual disturbance, and lack of coordination. "If you have difficulty keeping a steady pressure on the foot pedal, or trouble steering a straight line; if you have trouble negotiating turns; if you have trouble reading signs or recognizing that car ahead of you -- you need to pull over," he says. "People need to be aware of these symptoms."

The study also illustrates the need to take immediate action to correct blood sugar levels. Pull off the road, drink a fast-acting sugar (soda or juice), and allow 20 minutes for blood sugar levels to normalize. "You can't wait until your blood glucose goes so low that your brain becomes incapacitated," he says.

It's important to prevent hypoglycemia in the first place, says Cox. "If you suspect that your blood sugar is between 70 and 90, you should not drive until you've treated yourself. Otherwise, [if] you're going to be driving for 15 minutes ... you [might] slip into the critical range."

Philip Cryer, MD, professor of medicine and professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Washington University in St. Louis, tells WebMD, "As one of the accompanying editorials points out, there are no real consequences of errors with the simulator, unlike with driving. We should be careful in extrapolating from these data to the real-world driving situation."

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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