Fighting Diabetes: A Lot or a Little?

Intensive glycemic control for type 2 diabetes patients may be dangerous

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The main goal of treating type 2 diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels under control. Some doctors believe that certain patients need intensive treatment to keep blood sugar down to normal levels.

The risk of heart disease and death was the same for diabetes patients who got intensive treatment and those who got conventional treatment. However, intensive care patients had a lower risk for damaged blood vessels, while also having a higher risk of hypoglycemia (when blood sugar gets too low).

"Be careful about treating diabetes too intensively."

While it is still unclear if intensive care is any better than traditional care, this study - which was conducted by Bianca Hemmingsen MD, PhD and colleagues from the Copenhagen Trial Unit - suggests that intensive care can pose some risks to diabetes patients.

It is obvious that diabetes needs to be treated. People with diabetes face the possibility of an early death if they go without treatment. Be that as it may, not all patients need intensive therapy. In most cases, doctors will try to get a patient's blood sugar around or slightly above normal, protecting that patient from the problems related to having blood sugar levels that are too low.

Other doctors will give their patients intensive treatment - in which blood sugar is kept at the levels seen in people without diabetes, protecting them from the risks related to blood sugar levels that are too high.

Dr. Hemmingsen and colleagues could not find enough information to see if one type of treatment led to a better quality of life than the other. Nonetheless, they hypothesized that intensive treatment would have a bad effect on a patient's quality of life, compared to conventional treatment.

According to Dr. Hemmingsen, patients who are trying to reach intensive blood sugar levels have to deal with difficult and time consuming treatments. On top of that, she adds, these patients have the fear that their blood sugar will fall too low, which can lead to a loss of consciousness or even death.

As the number of people with type 2 diabetes continues to grow, it is important to find the best ways to help patients control their blood sugar levels, says Dr. Hemmingsen. She says that more research is needed to see what blood sugar targets are the safest for patients.

For their study, the researchers looked at all the published clinical trials that compared intensive blood sugar control to conventional blood sugar control. They found 20 studies that included nearly 30,000 participants.

The research is published in The Cochrane Library.

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Review Date: 
August 1, 2011
Last Updated:
August 3, 2011