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11/14/2013 - Dangers of low blood sugar levels

For diabetics, checking blood glucose levels frequently can help prevent injury to themselves as well as to others.

November is National Diabetes Month. Known as the "silent killer," the disease can often go undiagnosed and it's estimated that nearly 26 million Americans have the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, another 80 million adults have pre-diabetes, which is found when someone exhibits all the risk factors for diabetes but the condition hasn't been officially detected.

The purpose of the annual recognition period - which the United Nations adopted several years ago, in part, to honor the discoverers of insulin - is to cast a light on diabetes so that more people are aware of its prevalence as well as the symptoms that are characterized by it. These include family history, frequently feeling thirsty, obesity, high blood pressure and excessive tiredness.

But there's something else that warrants concern among those who have already been diagnosed with the blood disorder - they may be at an increased risk for getting into a car accident.

Study: Few diabetics check blood sugar prior to driving
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported on a study of 202 people who were diabetic and taking insulin as a standard part of their treatment. The researchers determined that six in 10 never tested their blood sugar before getting behind the wheel.

The reason why this is concerning, according to Daniel Lorber, director of endocrinology at New York Hospital Queens, is that blood sugar levels can decrease quickly, leading to a number of physical reactions that could put someone at risk for a crash, serious enough to warrant a car insurance claim.

"If it drops, then you get into some severe thinking and judgment issues, and that's what we're concerned about," Lorber told the newspaper. 

Having low blood sugar is more commonly known as hyperglycemia, which people can have without being diabetic. Ned Kennedy, a physician who works at the Cleveland Clinic, noted that this is important to be aware of, as the last thing anyone wants to do is stigmatize individuals with diabetes as being more at risk for getting into an accident. 

Nevertheless, he pointed out that people who have blood sugar problems should be sure to check their blood glucose levels frequently.

"Just taking the time to do that could save them a lot of trouble and prevent them from being a danger to themselves or to other people," he said.

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