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Living With The Daily Risk of Hypos

Here are just a few quotes from people with diabetes:

  • “Hypoglycaemia is one of the worst parts of having diabetes”
  • “Hypoglycaemia screws up your life.”
  • “For some of us it is a constant battle that we go through everyday and every night to try to obtain some sort of normality in our blood glucose levels. The fears and experiences, especially of hypoglycaemia comas and seizures that many of us and our carers suffer, are ever present.”

Practical information from people with diabetes for people with diabetes:

  • One hypo can easily lead to another within the next 72 hours. This is because the first hypo used up much of the body’s emergency store of glucose so leaving the body vulnerable to another hypo.
  • Strenuous exercise can lead to low the blood sugars the next day.
  • Exercise sufficient to lower blood sugars and cause a hypo is not always the strenuous sporty-type exercise. For people with a sedentary job or the elderly, a trip around the busy supermarket is exercise and can be sufficient to cause a hypo.
  • Sexual intercourse is exercise and can cause hypos in both men and women.
  • Alcohol lowers the blood sugars and can cause hypoglycaemia both at the time and up to 48 hours later. Alcohol also masks the warning signs of a hypo. Hypos can be misinterpreted by others as ‘ you are drunk’.
  • Some drugs taken for other conditions may cause hypoglycaemia eg beta-blockers.
  • Emotional upset, stress and excitement, which may not always be apparent, can cause hypos.
  • With illness and especially vomiting, it is OK to eat or drink anything that will keep the blood sugars high enough to avoid hypoglycaemia.
  • All long- and intermediate-acting insulins contain crystals and they settle to the bottom of the vial. They must be re-suspended before drawing up and injecting the insulin. Research has shown that the vial must be rolled or tipped 20 times to achieve a satisfactory mixture. This also applies to insulin in pens. Failure to do this can result in unexpected hypos because there will be less crystals in the insulin and it is the crystals that slow down the action of the insulin.
  • A change of insulin type, species and even batch can affect diabetic control and cause hypos.
  • Genetically produced synthetic ‘human’ insulin in some people causes more severe hypos, more frequent hypos and reduced or loss of warning symptoms.
  • Hypos can occur for no apparent reason and in people who blood test frequently, as well as those who don’t.
  • Being able to function and walk around with low blood sugars does not mean that you are not hypo – it probably means that you have missed, or not had, the early warning signs.
  • Hypoglycaemia itself can lead to loss of warnings.
  • Good diabetic control means avoiding hypoglycaemia just as much as avoiding hyperglycaemia [high blood sugars].