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Older Adults May be Overtreated for Diabetes

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​​​​Diabetic monitor

If you care for an older adult with diabetes, you know the treatment and management of this condition can be taxing at times. Controlling the blood sugar takes diligence and discipline, but a recent study suggests many older adults with diabetes are being overtreated for the disease.

The study, conducted by Dr. Kasia Lipska of the Yale School of Medicine, analyzed data for 1,288 adults aged 65 and over with a diagnosis of diabetes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), from 2001 until 2010.

Lipska determined the actual treatment for diabetes isn't the issue, but when the treatment isn't customized with the patient's other medical conditions in mind, they may be at increased risk for over-treatment.

For those with diabetes, a common goal is to reach a hemoglobin A1c reading below 7%. The study found that using insulin and sulfonylurea drugs to lower blood sugar can lead to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which poses its own medical threat.

When glucose levels in the blood become lower than normal, hypoglycemia, patients can develop sweating, trembling, and heart palpitations. If it isn't stabilized, hypoglycemia can lead to severe health concerns.

Because many older patients often present with multiple complex medical issues, the authors of the study say they are more susceptible to hypoglycemia. Aiming for an A1c below 7% using traditional diabetes treatments may not be the right option for every patient.

The authors of the study concluded, "Recognition of both the harms and benefits of glycemic control is critical for patients and physicians and other health care professionals to make informed decisions about glucose-lowering treatment."

You can learn more about diabetes in older adults and how to manage the disease on CaregiverStress.com


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