For many people, weight loss surgery is a health game changer. But a San Antonio researcher says some patients are running into an unexpected and underdiagnosed complication years after the surgery.
UT Health San Antonio diabetes researcher Dr. Marzieh Salehi said one well-documented result of bariatric surgeries like gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy is an “immediate and robust” effect on glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes.
"One out of three patients after gastric bypass - at the time of discharge from the hospital, before any weight loss has happened - they really don't need any more medication for diabetes," Salehi said.
For some, however, the decrease in their blood sugar can go too far, and they can start to have symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Weight loss surgery patients can experience bouts of hypoglycemia for years and remain undiagnosed because the signs can overlap with those of a more common weight loss surgery complictication; rapid gastric emptying, more commonly known as dumping syndrome. Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, and sometimes fainting or seizures.
Salehi said one of her patients had stopped driving because she had been having seizures and didn’t know what was causing them. When it was discovered the patient had experienced hypoglycemia, she could resume normal activities.
Salehi estimated about ten percent of those who've had a gastric bypass or sleeve surgery will experience this complication. It can emerge anywhere, from a year to many years after a patient’s surgery date. She said those who wonder if their symptoms are related to hypoglycemia can do a self-test using starchy food.
"People who have these symptoms,” Salehi said, “and the symptoms go away immediately as a result of ingesting carbohydrates, [they have] to be evaluated more."
If you still feel sick after eating carbohydrates, she said, your symptoms are not caused by hypoglycemia.
Bonnie Petrie can be reached at Bonnie@TPR.org and on Twitter at @kbonniepetrie