diabetes, overtreatment, research

The Dangers of Overtreating Diabetes

With all of the potent medications out there for diabetes these days, there is the potential for overtreating diabetes. Just like undertreating, overtreating diabetes can be dangerous and detrimental to your health. 

Recent research has found that people with diabetes receive too many glucose lowering medications. The risk here is severe hypoglycemia, or very low blood sugar levels. In cases of severe low blood sugar, you require the help of someone else, and have an increased risk of death, heart disease, falls, and more.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia

  • Dizziness
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Symptoms of severe hypoglycemia

  • Jerky movements
  • Muscle weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Falling
  • Death

The study

Researchers found that around 2.3 million people were overtreated between 2011 and 2014, regardless of whether they had other complications such as old age, chronic conditions, or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). The study was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings

Most health policymakers and doctors are more concerned about reducing high blood sugar and undertreatment, but it’s important to be aware of the harm of overtreatment, especially in those who are frail, have several chronic conditions, have type 1 diabetes, or take insulin. 

Study lead Dr. Rozalina McCoy said: “We need to align treatment regimens and goals with each patient’s clinical situation, health status, psychosocial situation, and reality of everyday life to ensure that care is consistent with their goals, preferences and values.” 


The implications

This new study along with previous studies highlights the need for diabetes treatment that is individualized to each patient and not one-size-fits-all. By the time a patient is in his or her 70s, he or she has most likely already received the benefits of long-term tight glycemic control. So doctors should pay more attention to tailoring diabetes treatment to each person. 

Overtreatment of diabetes is preventable. Talk with your doctor if you think you or a loved one is being overtreated for diabetes.