21 November 2007

Diabetics may be risky drivers

Drivers with diabetes who have trouble telling when their blood sugar is low may get behind the wheel when they shouldn't.

Drivers with diabetes who have trouble telling when their blood sugar is low may get behind the wheel when they shouldn't, a small study suggests.

The study, of 65 adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, found that many of those with impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia symptoms thought they were OK to drive even when their blood sugar was dangerously low.

Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, hinders a person's ability to think and make quick judgments - which makes driving a hazard.

In the new study, published in the journal of Diabetes Care, 21 of 45 adults with type 1 diabetes had problems recognising they had low blood sugar. Of these patients, 43 percent felt they were able to drive even when their sugar was low.

Body doesn't clear symptoms
The problem is not that these individuals did not know hypoglycaemia symptoms - such as heart palpitations, sweating, tremors and visual disturbances, explained lead researcher Dr Alexander D. M. Stork of the University Medical Centre Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Instead, their bodies don't trigger clear symptoms until their sugar levels are markedly low. This is in part because of the body's adaptation to hypoglycaemia, Stork told Reuters Health, and partly due to diabetic nerve damage.

For the study, participants completed two sessions in a driving simulator, once with normal blood sugar levels and once with low sugar. During the tests they were asked whether they felt hypoglycaemic and whether, in everyday life, they would drive.

Participants also rated their symptoms on questionnaires to gauge their awareness of their hypoglycaemia.

Of type 1 diabetics with good awareness, just one felt OK to drive when hypoglycaemic -- versus nine of 21 with poor awareness.

The bottom line, Stork said, is that people with diabetes need "early, clear and consistent education" about hypoglycaemia and driving. He also stressed, though, that most type 1 diabetics with good hypoglycaemia awareness made safe driving decisions. - (Amy Norton/Reuters Health)

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, November 2007.

Read more:
Hypoglycaemia risky in diabetics
Diabetes Centre


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