Poor blood sugar control could lead to infections in older diabetics

by Barbara Hewitt on February 29, 2016

Older people with diabetes who relax their blood sugar control may be increasing their risk of contracting certain infections, new research in the UK has found.

Currently, the diabetes guidelines provided by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK recommends that doctors consider relaxing the blood sugar control targets for elderly patients with diabetes who are less likely to experience the long term benefits of a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes.

However, the results of research conducted at the University of Surrey’s Real-World Evidence Centre, now suggests that older people with inferior control over their blood sugar levels are more likely to develop infections.


blood sugar

They pointed out that this is a consequence which had not been discovered when the NICE diabetes guidelines were originally devised and distributed.

The researchers undertook a retrospective analysis of infection rates in people aged 65 years and older with diabetes. They found that pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin and soft tissue infections were all more common in people with poor blood sugar control, whilst those with moderate blood sugar control did not appear to have an increased risk of infection.

As a result of this, older people with diabetes who relax their blood sugar control may be increasing their risk of contracting these infections, they have concluded.

“Preventing infections in older people with diabetes is vitally important as we know they are at a much higher risk than other people of developing complications and even dying from common infections,” said Andrew McGovern, clinical researcher with the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine at the university.

“Our research suggests that when people have worse blood sugar control they are more likely to get these infections. This new finding should be taken into account by all clinicians when setting blood sugar targets in the elderly,” he explained.

He also pointed out that further research is needed to identify the best balance between the risks of too strict blood sugar control and increased infection risk.

The researchers hope that those responsible for selecting blood sugar control targets for older people will now take into account the increased risk of infection when advising patients with diabetes.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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