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Avoidable diabetes-related hospital visits on the rise, study says

England saw a 39 percent increase in patients admitted to the hospital for hypoglycemia over the course of the last 15 years.

By Stephen Feller
Avoidable diabetes-related hospital visits on the rise, study says
Although low blood sugar can be corrected by eating or drinking sweets, juices or glucose tablets, researchers in England found a 39 percent increase in the number of people admitted to the hospital for hypoglycemia during the last decade and a half. Photo by Syda Productions/Shutterstock

LEICESTER, England, July 18 (UPI) -- Significantly more people in England have gone to the hospital for treatment of low blood sugar during the last decade, suggesting some type of intervention is needed to help patients get their condition under control, researchers say.

Researchers at the University of Leicester found an annual increase of thousands more diabetes patients per year admitted to the hospital for hypoglycemia, most of whom were patients over age 60.

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When blood sugar levels drop, eating or drinking glucose tablets, candy or some type of juice or soft drink generally returns levels to where they should be. Extreme episodes, however, can lead to coma, hospitalization and death.

"Studies in the United States and Canada have reported increasing or stable rates of hospital admissions for hypoglycemia," Dr. Francesco Zaccardi, a clinical research fellow at the University of Leicester, said in a press release. "With this study we gathered information about long-term trends in hospital admission for hypoglycemia and subsequent outcomes in England to help widen understanding for the global burden of hospitalization for hypoglycemia."

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For the study, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, researchers reviewed medical data for 101,475 hospital admissions in England for hypoclycemia between 2005 and 2014.

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Of the 101,475 admissions, 72,568, or 72 percent, were patients 60 years or older, and 13,924, or 18 percent, of patients had more than one admission during the study period.

The number of admissions was found to increase steadily from 2005, when there were 7,868 admissions, to 11,756 in 2010 -- a 49 percent increase -- before stabilizing until 2014 when there were 10,977 admissions for hypoglycemia. The number of admissions over the entire 14-year period represents a 39 percent increase for just hypoglycemia, which researchers say can be considered a 14 percent increase when factoring the overall increase in hospitalized patients in England.

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Even with the increase in hospital trips for hypoglycemia, there was a decrease in admissions for diabetes and length of hospital stay, and mortality and one-month readmissions also declined.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes & Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester based at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, who guided the team, said: "Given the continuous rise of diabetes prevalence, aging population and costs associated with hypoglycemia, individual and national initiatives should be implemented to reduce the burden of hospital admissions for hypos."

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