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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Drive Safe with Diabetes

Unfortunately, driving and diabetes do not generally mix very well. Licensing rules anywhere are generally lax in keeping people with diabetes from driving, and this puts all road users, including pedestrians at risk. Driving with undetected or poorly managed diabetes can be as risky as the effects of alcohol.

The first signs are almost funny. People who have diabetes, but who are unaware of it, need to use rest rooms frequently, and a long drive, whether as driver or passenger, can be most uncomfortable, and even embarrassing!

High blood glucose makes people drowsy, which is fine as long as you are secure in a back seat! However, dozing off at the wheel, or making a driver sleepy by snoozing in the front passenger seat, is clearly dangerous.

It takes some time for a person newly diagnosed with diabetes to adjust diet, exercise, and medication. Hypoglycemia is possible, and the dizzy feeling it evokes, is a sure recipe for an accident. Later, patients learn to recognize the signs, and can pull over and have a fibrous snack, or a drink with a simple sugar. However, until such experience and practice set in, a person new to diabetes is vulnerable to accidents.

Uncontrolled diabetes eventually affects the eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet. Hopefully, victims of such later stages of diabetes will give up driving on their own, but most traffic and motor vehicle departments have poor regulations to stop them legally in time.

Even a person well versed in diabetes management may suffer dire consequences if involved in an accident which causes loss of consciousness. The course of emergency treatment should include blood glucose control, something para-medics and doctors will not know until blood test results become available, if the person does not carry easily accessible information on the body about suffering from diabetes.

You can drive safely with diabetes, if:

- your blood glucose is under control

- you can recognize signs of hyper and hypo glycemia

- you have snacks and medicines to deal with emergencies

- you carry information on your person which emergency workers can use to know about your condition, in the event you lose consciousness

I have no confidence that everyone who drives with diabetes is ready with all these conditions! However, each of us can set personal examples to improve the situation.


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