(Health Secrets) A UK survey has indicated that type 2 diabetics treated with sulphonylureas to regulate blood sugar are actually experiencing an unnecessarily high number of low blood sugar attacks because of the medication. While preventing blood sugar from becoming too high reduces the chance of long term complications, severe low blood sugar attacks can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, coma or even death.
The study, commissioned by Diabetes UK, surveyed approximately two thousand type 2 diabetics being treated with sulphonylureas, but not with insulin. It found that 50% of these had experienced symptoms of a mild to moderate hypoglycemic episode caused by low blood sugar within the preceding week, an unnecessarily high proportion according to experts at Diabetes UK.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. People who suffer from type 2 diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin to process the glucose they digest, or aren’t able to use the natural insulin produced in their bodies effectively.
Being unable to process glucose from food can lead to high blood sugar, resulting in long term complications such as heart or kidney disease, nerve damage, and blindness. Although there are genetic factors at work, the group most at risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is those above the age of 40 who are also overweight.
How type 2 diabetes is treated with sulphonylureas
Many type 2 diabetics are prescribed sulphonylureas, which are supposed to regulate blood sugar by stimulating the pancreas to produce more insulin. The extra insulin should help to process glucose in the blood, lowering blood sugar. However, this study indicates that in many cases, the increased insulin production resulting from sulphonylureas is excessive, causing low blood sugar or hypoglycemic episodes.
What is a hypoglycemic episode?
A hypoglycemic episode is caused by having too much insulin in the blood in relation to glucose, resulting in low blood sugar. Early symptoms that may indicate a mild attack include feeling confused, dizzy, shaky, and irritable, often accompanied by a headache. Warning signs that may signal a more intense episode include paleness of the skin, sweating and heart pounding.
As the episode increases in severity, symptoms including numbness and poor co-ordination may be experienced. A mild to moderate hypoglycemic episode can be treated by eating sugar, taking glucose tablets, or drinking fruit juice, followed a short time later with a high protein snack.
When hypoglycemic episodes become more severe, they may lead to seizures or loss of consciousness. If untreated, the patient may slip into a coma, or even die.
Study shows unnecessarily high incidence of hypoglycemic attacks
The UK study concentrated on mild to moderate hypoglycemic episodes, which seem to be caused by excess insulin produced when patients take prescribed sulphonylureas.
The type 2 diabetics surveyed said that their quality of life was affected by mild hypoglycemic episodes, with many having to take time off work, and others unable to carry out daily tasks such as housework. Others reported problems sleeping due to hypoglycemic episodes.
Another cause for concern in patients having regular hypoglycemic episodes is that their bodies may eventually stop producing the warning signs associated with a mild attack, and they may experience a severe attack including loss of consciousness without realizing anything is wrong.
Dr Brian Karet, a medical advisor for Diabetes UK suggests that doctors may be prescribing patients more medication than is necessary to control their condition due to pressure to prevent blood sugar levels form becoming too high. He also states that doctors are encouraged to prescribe multiple medications, which may be making hypoglycemic episodes worse.
The survey results were seen as surprising, with a higher incidence of hypoglycemic episodes than expected. This indicates that type 2 diabetics are learning to control the symptoms of medically induced hypoglycemic episodes, rather than consulting their doctor.
Natural treatments for type 2 diabetes
Before trying any form of medication, it is recommended that type 2 diabetics try to regulate their blood sugar by making changes to their diet, the amount of exercise they do, and their lifestyle.
If lifestyle changes are not enough, choose a natural alternative to blood glucose lowering drugs. Taking Sugar Balance is a natural way to regulate blood sugar, and can be used as a primary glucose management system. When combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, it can reduce the risk of kidney, heart and eye damage associated with poor glucose control. In addition to the usual benefits of regulating glucose levels, Sugar Balance may provide more energy, a stronger immune function, and improved sexual function.