Hypoglycaemia is a major burden on patients and society and is often a barrier to the achievement of tight glycaemic control. Intact awareness of hypoglycaemia is crucial to recognising and treating hypoglycaemia before it becomes severe enough to impair consciousness. Repeated hypoglycaemia can lead to impaired awareness increasing the risk of severe hypoglycaemia up to sixfold. Hypoglycaemia is much less common in those with type 2 diabetes, the incidence increasing with longer duration of treatment with insulin, associated comorbidities, and in the elderly. Alcohol, advancing age and exercise may predispose to hypoglycaemia. Newer agents acting via the incretin axis are associated with low rates of hypoglycaemia. Intensification of therapy to achieve tight glucose control can increase the risk of hypoglycaemia in the outpatient as well as critical care setting. In some studies this has also been associated with increased mortality, although causality has not been proven. Insulin treated patients are currently restricted from driving heavy goods vehicles or public service vehicles, although it is unclear if those with diabetes have any higher rates of accidents than those without diabetes. Surveys show that professionals are poor at emphasising the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency recommendations for drivers with diabetes in the UK. At every visit, patients with diabetes on hypoglycaemic agents should be assessed for frequency, severity, and awareness of hypoglycaemia. The main therapeutic strategies for reducing hypoglycaemia are structured patient education, use of modern insulin analogues, insulin pumps, and continuous glucose monitoring. Transplantation of islets or whole pancreas is indicated in those with recurrent disabling hypoglycaemia.
- Diabetes & endocrinology
- general diabetes
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.