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Common Painkiller Tramadol Linked to Dangerously Low Blood Sugar, Study Shows

Image: Common Painkiller Tramadol Linked to Dangerously Low Blood Sugar, Study Shows
50 mg Tramadol HCl tablets (generic Ultram) marketed by Amneal Pharmaceuticals. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Thursday, 01 Jan 2015 01:27 PM

Diabetics are faced with numerous health concerns and the challenging task of managing their disease. Now they have even more to worry about as a recent Canadian study has linked the painkiller tramadol (Ultram) to dangerously low blood sugar. Tramadol has been prescribed to relieve the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, a painful condition in which nerve damage has occurred due to high blood sugar levels.

Tramadol is a prescription narcotic drug used to "help relieve moderate to moderately severe pain. Tramadol is similar to narcotic analgesics. It works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain," reports WebMD. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, and headache.

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Laurent Azoulay, assistant professor at McGill University in Montreal and co-author of the study said, "Physicians need to be aware that the use of tramadol may be associated with an increased risk of severe hypoglycemia," reports HealthDay. Azoulay also stated, "Anyone who takes tramadol is at risk for low blood sugar, not only people with diabetes, who may already be at risk of low blood sugar due to their diabetes treatment."

The Canadian study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined the relationship between tramadol and hospitalization for hypoglycemia. Researchers pulled from an extensive database of over 300,000 patients treated with tramadol between 1998 and 2012. What they discovered was "tramadol-induced hypoglycemia occurred rapidly after initiation—within 10 days of treatment. Moreover, there were no known risk factors, such as diabetes mellitus, in more than 40 percent of the reports."

However, according to HealthDay, "Though the new research found a much higher risk of low blood sugar with tramadol, it's important to note that the overall risk is still quite low. The study found a serious low blood sugar event occurred in fewer than one person for every 1,000 people taking the drug every year."

The current study on tramadol and its link to dangerously low blood sugar contradicts a 1998 study on tramadol and diabetes. In a Baylor College of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Medical Center study, researchers concluded, "tramadol was effective and safe in treating the pain of diabetic neuropathy." Side effects of the drug were listed as "nausea, constipation, headache, and somnolence" but made no mention of glucose levels, which are a critical health issue for people with diabetes.

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

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Diabetics are faced with numerous health concerns and the challenging task of managing their disease. Now they have even more to worry about as a recent Canadian study has linked the painkiller tramadol (Ultram) to dangerously low blood sugar.
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2015-27-01
Thursday, 01 Jan 2015 01:27 PM
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