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Postgrad Med. 2010 May;122(3):129-37. doi: 10.3810/pgm.2010.05.2150.

Approach to managing hypoglycemia in elderly patients with diabetes.

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Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2G3, Canada.


Hypoglycemia is a common clinical problem in elderly patients with diabetes. Aging modifies the counterregulatory and symptomatic responses to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia in the elderly is not only due to tight blood sugar control, but also due to a multitude of other factors. Hypoglycemia often occurs with insulin, sulfonylureas, or meglitinide therapy. However, other causes may also contribute to hypoglycemia, such as decreased cognition, renal impairment, or polypharmacy. The presenting features of hypoglycemia may be atypical and misinterpreted, resulting in delayed treatment. Morbidity is greater in elderly patients, and the risk of progression to severe hypoglycemia is high because of their altered symptom profile, diminished symptom intensity, and altered glycemic thresholds. Hypoglycemia seems to be the main limiting factor in their glycemic control. In this article we discuss strategies to prevent hypoglycemic episodes.

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