Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Depressed People With Diabetes: Blood Sugar Risk?

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

continued...

The risk of hypoglycemia was unaffected by the type of treatment received. People taking oral medications were just as likely to have a hypoglycemic episode as those taking insulin, according to the study.

Overall, people with diabetes who were depressed had a 42 percent greater risk of having a severe hypoglycemic episode, and a 34 percent higher risk of having a greater number of hypoglycemic episodes.

Katon said there are two likely explanations for these increased risks. One is that depression leads to psychobiological changes that cause big fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which may make it harder to prevent low blood sugar levels.

The other possibility is that depression leads to a lack of interest in the self-care that's necessary to manage diabetes well. "People who are depressed may be less likely to test their blood sugar levels regularly. They may adhere to their medications less well. They may forget if they've taken them, and then end up taking an additional dose," said Katon.

Another expert, Eliot LeBow, a therapist with a diabetes-focused practice in New York City, and a type 1 diabetic himself, agreed that "depression can affect a person's ability to manage their diabetes." But, he said there was an important piece of information missing from the study: how much diabetes education a person has had. People who've had more diabetes education would probably be less likely to have a severe hypoglycemic episode, LeBow suggested.

He also noted that high blood sugar symptoms can look a lot like depression symptoms. "Sometimes, when you make a few changes in how someone is managing their diabetes, their depression may lift," said LeBow.

Both experts agree that people with diabetes who are depressed need to get help. And, fortunately, there are treatments available -- psychotherapy and medications. Katon said there are depression medications that don't significantly affect blood sugar levels.

According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, depression symptoms include:

  • Long-term sadness, anxiety or hopelessness.
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
  • A loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Sleep and appetite changes.
  • Trouble remembering things.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Although the study found an association between depression and greater risk of hypoglycemic episodes, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

1|2

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

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.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article