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Is There a Connection between Atenolol and Diabetes?

By T. Carrier
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cardiac disease and diabetes are two of the most prevalent health issues in the 21st century. Drug treatments are a major component of each disease, but scientific evidence may indicate that some drug options for one ailment may actually aggravate the other ailment. Atenolol for cardiac problems is one such example. Some studies have implied a link between intake of atenolol and diabetes risk. Further, the drug may potentially cover up indicators of diabetic complications.

Atenolol belongs to a class of pharmaceuticals known as beta blockers. Traditional uses of atenolol are mainly concerned with treatment of heart ailments, particularly high heart rates. In this capacity, the drug operates by reducing the amount of pumping work the heart performs in a given period of time.

Beta blockers such as atenolol have received scrutiny, and use has therefore been diminished in some regions. In the United Kingdom, for example, the ranking of atenolol on the region’s drug classification system was lowered. Critics claim that pharmaceuticals produced after atenolol are both more efficient and less prone to possible damaging effects such as diabetes risks and poor treatment outcomes in elderly patients and individuals with asthma. Atenolol and diabetes are often associated because patients with heart problems that necessitate the drug's use also have diabetes or the risk of diabetes.

Diabetes is a condition that impacts the amount of sugar found in the blood. A normal level of blood sugar keeps individuals operating at a functional and healthy capacity. When these levels fall above or below the average, a number of damaging and potentially harmful side effects can result, ranging from lethargy to body shock.

Perhaps the primary negative association between atenolol and diabetes is the former’s supposed role in hindering insulin effects. Insulin is a substance that helps keep blood sugar levels stable and within a normal range. The type of insulin resistance allegedly produced by atenolol may contribute to long-term unchecked and elevated levels of blood sugar. Individuals with a Type 2 diabetes risk — which develops over time — seem especially susceptible to these effects.

Patients who already have diabetes may also face harmful atenolol side effects. Some research suggests that the drug may prevent the body from recognizing when blood sugar levels are at an abnormally low level. When this consequence occurs, the body typically gives off warning signals, such as sweating, shaking, and extreme irritability. The drug atenolol, however, may block some or all of these responses. This effect is especially dangerous for diabetics because blood sugar levels can be extremely erratic and unpredictable and when blood sugar drops too low, diabetic shock or a diabetic coma can result.

In turn, atenolol and diabetes may be linked because the drug may produce side effects in some patients that mimic diabetic problems. For example, the mouth may become very dry; speaking may prove difficult; and the individual may feel faint, dizzy, or overly fatigued. All of these symptoms may be present when blood sugar levels are unbalanced as well. This may lead a diabetic to erroneously conclude that diabetes countermeasures are needed at a moment when they are not.

The advisory labels on some forms of atenolol exercise an additional air of caution for diabetics. Many of these labels advise letting a physician know if the patient is taking certain drugs, such as insulin. This warning could indicate a further potentially adverse effect between atenolol and diabetes.

Since patients with diabetes often have cardiac problems as well, complete suspension of needed cardiac medication is not advisable. If a diabetic is taking atenolol, consultation with a qualified physician is perhaps the best option. Second opinions would not hurt either. Often, non-pharmaceutical approaches like healthy diet and exercise can help alleviate both diabetes and cardiac symptoms.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments
By anon993700 — On Dec 07, 2015

"If atenolol is causing hypoglycemia, then a patient with high bp, and sugar, can he get by using a lower amount of Antidiabetic Advantage?"

It's not causing hypoglycemia; it's masking the symptoms which makes it more difficult to tell there's a problem until it gets dangerous.

By anon967977 — On Aug 31, 2014

In all probability it was the atenol that kick started my diabetes and now that I know about it 10 years too late, the stuffed shirt who prescribed it says that I have to keep taking it or my system will go haywire. Great stuff! Medicine may still qualify as a science, but it is suspiciously rooted in the middle ages.

By anon332706 — On Apr 30, 2013

If atenolol is causing hypoglycemia, then a patient with high bp, and sugar, can he get by using a lower amount of Antidiabetic Advantage?

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