Dextrose is a form of sugar. The body converts dextrose and other sugars to glucose, its main source of energy. Dextrose also has therapeutic effects, and medical literature contains many examples. The drug oxytocin, combined with dextrose, is given to pregnant women to stimulate labour when necessary. Low-birth-weight or premature babies may be given a dextrose solution to help them gain weight. Weightlifters often take dextrose after working out to avoid exhaustion.
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Intravenous (IV) dextrose solutions contain dextrose and water and are available in concentrations from 2.5 per cent to 50 per cent, with each percentage indicating 1g dextrose to 100ml water. Medications may be added. Dextrose solutions may provide fluid and calories to a dehydrated person, or correct a hypoglycaemic state caused by lack of glucose. It is often used postoperatively or after chemotherapy to prevent nausea and vomiting. As with any medication, there are caveats. Prolonged therapy can cause a metabolic condition in which not enough salt is present in the body fluids outside the cells. Low blood potassium is another complication that can be dangerous if not treated. All fluids in IV solutions should be carefully monitored, and dextrose solutions should never be mixed with blood because it can cause clotting.
Interventional radiologists now perform procedures that formerly required surgery. One is using radio-frequency heat to destroy a tumour or other lesion. A main concern with such treatment is preventing heat injury to tissues surrounding the area to be destroyed. A technique that used 5 per cent dextrose in water infused into the peritoneum to protect it while directed radio-frequency heat destroyed a liver lesion was described at a 2003 session of the Radiological Society of North America, the world’s largest radiology meeting. Because a dextrose/water solution is non-ionic, it reacts only minimally with the heat-causing current.
An injected dextrose/water solution can tighten up some loose anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) that formerly needed surgery. The ACL is the most important of the four ligaments that connect the bones of the knee. It provides stability and limits rotational movement in active people but can become loose with advancing age, osteoarthritis or injury. Dextrose prolotherapy, an injection that causes growth of normal cells, achieved better knee flexion and range of motion in nine of 16 knees treated by K. Dean Reeves, M.D., and Khatab M. Hassanein, Ph.D., at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Athletes who do frequent heavy workouts with weights use dextrose for recovery because exercise depletes glucose stores. The dextrose solution stimulates an insulin response in the body that restores glucose levels and helps muscle tissue torn down by exercise to recover. It is taken post exercise or early in the morning. It is not appropriate for the average person and could cause weight gain, hypoglycaemia or even precipitate diabetes. Dextrose is not an energy supplement or booster.
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