Depression ups risk for low blood sugar in diabetics

In addition to posing lifestyle challenges and mental health complications, depression may also be a dangerous health risk for those with diabetes.

New research from the University of Washington Medical School found that people with both depression and diabetes have more than 40 percent higher risk of developing a severe low blood sugar episode that requires hospitalization than diabetics without depression.

The study

The five-year study included more than 4,100 diabetics, 500 of whom met the criteria for having major depression. Almost all of the participants – 96 percent – had type 2 diabetes, and about one-third were taking insulin to control the condition.

The research found that, over the course of the study, 11 percent of depressed diabetics had a serious hypoglycemic episode, while only a little over 6 percent of diabetics without depression reported this type of complication.

In addition to having an increased risk for a dangerous hypoglecemic episode, diabetics with depression were also more likely to suffer these episodes more frequently than their peers.

Explanations

Dr. Wayne Katon, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle, said that there are a couple of possible explanations for the association between depression, diabetes and low blood sugar:

  1. Depression can cause psychobiological changes that cause blood sugar to fluctuate.
  2. Depression may prevent diabetics from engaging in a level of self-care that's necessary to avoid hypoglycemic episodes. They may not take their medications regularly, or they may pay less attention to their diets than diabetics without depression.

"Depression is a very common accompanying condition for people with diabetes," Katon noted. "It's important to know that depression can lead to hypoglycemic episodes."

According to the study, about one-quarter of severe side effects from drugs that lead to hospitalizations are closely related to dangerously low blood sugar levels – suggesting that diabetics with depression need to exercise even more caution when mixing medications prescribed for both conditions.

Results of the study are published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine.

Source: US News Health

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