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Diabetics With Low Blood Sugar at Risk for Driving Accidents

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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."

Countering the criticism, Cox says that the simulators have been highly reliable in his studies of driving impairments related to aging, Alzheimer's disease, blood alcohol levels, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. "When we looked at older people and [performance on the] driving simulator, then followed them five years out, those who drove worse on the simulator had the most accidents," he tells WebMD.

Calling the study's overall conclusions reasonable and confirmatory, Cryer adds a cautionary note against discriminating against people with diabetes. "Most studies indicate there are few people with diabetes who should not drive, [and] that the vast majority can drive and drive safely," he says.

Vital Information:

  • A new study shows that the driving abilities of diabetics are impaired when blood sugar levels drop, even if the drop is a relatively small amount.
  • If these drivers don't take immediate corrective action, they may slip into a more serious, stuporous state that could cause serious accidents.
  • Diabetics who experience trembling, visual disturbance, or lack of coordination while driving should immediately pull off the road and drink a soda or juice to help blood sugars normalize.
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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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