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Depression Could Elevate Risk of Low Blood Sugar Episodes for Diabetics

Update Date: May 24, 2013 02:18 PM EDT

People diagnosed with diabetes, a condition in which the body does not manufacture enough insulin or does not properly register insulin, have to be extra careful about what they put into their bodies. When nutrition is not properly monitored, diabetes in general could lead to more health complications. In a new study, researchers studied the link between depression and its effects on diabetics. They found that diabetic people suffering from depression were at a higher risk of experiencing more episodes of severe low blood sugar, which results in one in four diabetic needing emergency hospitalization.

"Severe hypoglycemia can be very dangerous for these patients. Symptoms can vary. Patients may feel shaky, sweaty and anxious. But very low blood sugar can cause loss of consciousness even coma and death and repeated episodes can lead to cognitive impairment over time," the lead researcher, Dr. Wayne J. Katon, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said.

For this study, the researchers, along with the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, monitored 4,100 patients with diabetes. At the start of the study, the participants were asked to complete a psychological screening questionnaire that would identify the patients that had signs of depression. At the end of the study, which lasted five years, the researchers found that diabetic people with major depression symptoms were 42 percent more likely to have low blood sugar episodes. These episodes resulted in emergency hospitalizations. Depression also increased the number of these hypoglycemic episodes by 34 percent.

The researchers believe that the link between the two factors could be attributed to the fact that depressed patients might have a harder time monitoring their daily medications and nutritional intake. This results in an increased risk of suffering from a hypoglycemic episode.

"The good news is that depression is something that can be treated effectively with either psychotherapy or with antidepressant medication," Katon added according to Medical Xpress. "But is' important that it can be recognized and treated because it significantly increases the patient's risk of this serious complication."

The study titled "Association of Depression With Increased Risk of Severe Hypoglycemic Episodes in Patients with Diabetes," was published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

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