Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) among adults with type 2 diabetes who take the diabetes drug sulphonylureas could be associated with a condition called cardiac ectopy, a new study suggests.
Cardiac ectopy is a mild disturbance of the cardiac rhythm that can lead to an irregular heartbeat, however treatment is very rarely required.
Scientists from the Diabetes Centre at Royal Price Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia looked at the relationship between cardiac ectopy and hypoglycemia in 30 adults with well-controlled type 2 diabetes who were treated with sulphonylureas, a blood glucose-lowering drug.
All the participants underwent 48 hours of continuous glucose monitoring alongside ambulatory electrocardiography. This helped researchers establish the effect of hypoglycemia on heart functions.
They found that rates of cardiac ectopy were increased following hypoglycemia, with these participants also having levels of higher nocturnal QT dynamicity, a prognostic factor for more severe cardiac complications, such as heart disease.
“The study demonstrates that sulphonylurea-related hypoglycemia is an often under-recognized phenomenon for many patients and this is a phenomenon that may have adverse CV sequalae,” said lead author Timothy L. Middleto, BSc, MBBS, MPhil.
While patients should not cease taking sulphonylureas without first consulting their doctor, Middleton and colleagues stress their findings, published in Diabetes Care, indicate greater research and consideration is needed regarding type 2 diabetes treatment options.
Benedict Jephcote, Head of Diabetes Education at Diabetes.co.uk, added: “Aside from hypos, the other main negative effect of sulphonylureas is that they increase the likelihood of gaining weight. So whilst sulphonylureas are effective at reducing blood sugar levels in the short term, they can have negative effects in the long term.
“If you can, it’s recommended to try to achieve better diabetes control with a healthy diet as this involves no side effects and leads to better health in the long term.”
For an easy-to-follow guide to healthy eating, join the Low Carb Program. It’s free and has helped many people to lose weight and improve their diabetes control.

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