Is Hypoglycaemia Dangerous?
Hypoglycaemia can affect people’s work, relationships, ability to drive and their quality of life but there are three main aspects to the question of whether it is actually dangerous:
- Severe untreated hypoglycaemia leads to coma with or without an accompanying seizure and this can lead to death. A study in the UK analysed the records of 23,752 people with Type 1 diabetes between the ages of 1 and 84 who had been diagnosed before the age of thirty to ensure that they really had Type 1 diabetes. They entered the study between 1972 and 1993 and were followed until 1997. By 1997, 949 people had died and hypoglycaemia was responsible for 18% of deaths in men and 6% of deaths in women.
- There is growing evidence that repeated moderate/severe hypoglycaemia can cause a reduction in cognitive function. This is of special concern in children where the brain is still developing. Some research has suggested that repeated hypoglycaemia in children can reduce the IQ by 5 or 6 points which does not sound very much but one researcher suggested that this could mean the difference between getting a university place and not. [See Useful Research item 8 of contents]
- Loss of warnings of an impending hypo can be classed as dangerous because it can result in more episodes of hypoglycaemia with all the consequent risks.
It is for all these reasons, and more, that IDDT believes that natural pork and beef insulin must remain available indefinitely. The most common reported adverse reaction to ‘human’ insulin is loss of warnings of hypoglycaemia, which in many people reverses with a change to natural pork or beef insulin. For this sub-group of people it is essential that the choice of animal insulins remains available to ensure that they do not suffer unnecessary and avoidable hypoglycaemia.