Car wreck risk for ‘well-controlled' diabetes

    Consumer Reports News: December 15, 2009 11:52 AM

    If you have diabetes, you're doubtless well aware of the need to keep your blood sugar under tight control. Well-controlled blood sugar means less chance of life-threatening complications, like heart attacks and kidney failure, or serious health problems such as blindness and leg ulcers.

    But there may be a less welcome side to tight control of blood glucose. A study of Canadian drivers with diabetes found that those who had lower blood glucose levels over time (measured by the HbA1c blood test) were more likely to have been involved in a car wreck than those with higher levels.

    The increased risk is likely a result of people having episodes of very low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can cause drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness.

    Treating your diabetes means walking a line between having your blood glucose too high or too low. It's not always easy to balance this, so you also need to be aware of the risk of hypoglycemia and be alert to symptoms.

    If you feel hypoglycemia coming on while you are driving, pull over and park the vehicle in a safe location. Eat some candies or glucose pills, or have a sugar-sweetened beverage such as cola (not diet). Wait until you feel completely recovered before you start the vehicle again. This may take 15 minutes. It's advisable to test your blood sugar first.

    What you need to know. Keeping your blood sugar under control is a good way to avoid complications from diabetes. But you also need to be cautious about the risk of having episodes of very low blood sugar, especially when driving. Your doctor can help advise you on how to avoid these episodes.

    —Anna Sayburn, patient editor, BMJ Group has partnered with The BMJ Group to monitor the latest medical research and assess the evidence to help you decide which news you should use.

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