Diabetes among Older Patients is Often Over-treated: Study

Published By : 07 Jul 2014 | Published By : QYRESEARCH

Diabetes patients are often treated with drugs such as metformin that mitigate the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). But this could be potentially costing these patients in the form of a dangerous side effect. However, older patients have a reduced ability to tolerate these medications, as they experience other chronic conditions with age. 

As a solution to this, doctors prescribe insulin or sulfonylureas for older people suffering from diabetes. However, these drugs increase the risk of hypoglycemia – which is another serious concern among older patients. If the level of insulin administered to an older patient is too high, their blood sugar levels can drastically plunge. This is turn could cause loss of consciousness and, in severe cases, death.

However, it isn’t always easy for medical practitioners to determine how much medication should be prescribed to a patient, and at what intervals. This problem is further compounded in the case of older diabetes patients as other factors—such as depression, loss of vision, dementia, and self-care difficulties—enter the picture

In this backdrop, a recent study, carried out by researchers at the Department of Veteran Affairs, that was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, sheds light on this problem. The study notes that when it comes to hospitalization and emergency department visits, sulfonylurea and insulin are the second most common prescriptions among patients aged 65 years and older. 

The new study indicates that overtreatment of diabetes, which increases the risk of hypoglycemia among aged patients, could be far more rampant than believed. 

This study took into consideration patients within the V.A. medication system that were exposed to a higher risk of developing hypoglycemia owing to age-related factors, as well as kidney function and cognitive impairment. The researchers took into consideration the A1C hemoglobin test that is used for testing blood sugar control. 

Their findings suggested that nearly 206,000 patients were subjected to therapy that was considerably more aggressive than the recommended levels of therapy. Medical practitioners reacted to these findings by observing that hypoglycemia among patients could be a stronger health threat than hyperglycemia in the short term, as far as older patients are concerned.
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