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Depressed People With Diabetes: Blood Sugar Risk?

Experts say biological changes or a lack of interest in self-care might be to blame
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Depression can affect almost every aspect of life, but some of the changes brought about by the disorder can be downright dangerous for those with diabetes.

New research has found that people with diabetes who are depressed have more than a 40 percent higher risk of having a severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) episode that lands them in the hospital compared to people with diabetes who aren't depressed.

"Depression is a very common accompanying condition for people with diabetes. It's important to know that depression can lead to hypoglycemic episodes," said study author Dr. Wayne Katon, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle.

"About one-quarter of all severe drug side effects that lead people to an ER visit or hospitalization are related to dramatic drops in blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is a dangerous and expensive problem. And, for people with diabetes, depression increases the risk of serious hypoglycemia by about 40 percent over five years, and leads to a greater number of hypoglycemic episodes," he explained.

Results of the study are published in the May/June issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

People with diabetes generally take medication that helps lower their blood sugar levels. These medications can be pills, or in the case of the hormone insulin, injections. However, sometimes these medications work too well, and they drop blood sugar levels too low. It's the glucose (sugar) in the blood that fuels the body and the brain. Without enough glucose, the body and brain can't work properly. If blood sugar levels drop too low, people can pass out. If the hypoglycemic episode is severe enough, people can even die.

So, someone living with diabetes has to maintain a balance between the medications they take to lower their blood sugar and what they eat. Other factors, such as physical activity and stress, also can affect blood sugar levels.

The study included just over 4,100 people with diabetes. Nearly 500 of these people met the criteria for having major depression during the five-year study period.

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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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