Alcohol and blood sugar can interact in patients with diabetes who naturally have trouble controlling the level of glucose in their blood. It is possible for alcohol consumption to result in either hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, depending on a variety of factors, and it is important for people with blood glucose problems to moderate their alcohol consumption with care to avoid triggering an episode. Alcohol consumption generally doesn't need to stop altogether, but such patients do need to be more careful when having drinks.
In a patient who has not eaten recently and has low blood sugar, consuming alcohol can cause hypoglycemia. In this case, alcohol and blood sugar interact by suppressing the liver's ability to make glucose. The patient may start to become dizzy, disoriented, and sleepy, common symptoms of both alcohol intoxication and low blood glucose. Treatment may require a glucose injection from a doctor, as medications designed to trigger the liver into releasing glucose will not be as effective.
Patients who have eaten a large meal and consume alcohol with it, particularly sweet alcohol like some beers and wines, can develop hyperglycemia, where the alcohol causes their blood sugar to spike. Alcohol and blood sugar levels that are already high can be a bad mix, pushing the patient into crisis. Patients who know their bodies and are familiar with the way food acts in their systems can usually make educated decisions about when it is safe to consume a drink, and when it would be advisable to wait.
Blood sugar monitoring is generally recommended for patients with diabetes, and patients can use their readings to see if they are within normal range, making it reasonably safe to drink. Drinking alcohol in moderation with meals is usually safe unless a doctor specifically recommends otherwise. Patients concerned about alcohol and blood sugar can discuss the issue with a doctor to get a detailed recommendation, including advice on when it is safe to drink and when it is better to abstain.
Chronic alcoholics can develop blood sugar problems, whether or not they have diabetes, and in patients with diabetes, alcoholism can create significant problems. Both of these health conditions are challenging to control independently, and the combination can pose substantial risks to the patient. Alcohol treatment programs are generally recommended for such patients so they don't develop health problems as a result of the adverse interactions between alcohol and blood sugar.