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Diabetes

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Read The Signs

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Understanding hypoglycaemia and how to prevent it

The management of diabetes involves constantly trying to keep blood glucose within normal levels (4mmol/l – 7.8mmol/l).2,3 Hypoglycaemia, sometimes called low blood sugar or a hypo, is a blood glucose level below the normal range (below 4mmol/l).

Hypos can occur in people living with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes who take insulin or other types of glucose-lowering medications as a result of an imbalance between food, exercise and medication.1,2

Don't ignore the signs of low blood sugar.

The first step is to educate yourself on how to read the signs of hypoglycaemia, to help you prevent, recognise and treat hypos.4

Symptoms may include shaking, sweating, lightheadedness or a change in mood.2 Even mild symptoms can be a cause for concern; however, many hypos can be prevented.2,4

To help prevent hypoglycaemia when taking insulin:5

  1. Don't skip or delay meals or snacks
  2. Monitor your blood sugar
  3. Take your medication as recommended by your doctor
  4. Adjust your medication or eat additional snacks if you increase your physical activity

 Many people try to cope with hypo symptoms themselves rather than talking to their doctor, which can cause difficulties in managing blood sugar control.6 If you get the right information and support, you will feel more confident to manage your risk of hypos.4

Many people taking insulin or certain tablets will have periods of low blood sugars through no fault of their own.2 If you experience any symptoms of hypoglycaemia in the future, speak to your healthcare professional about insulin treatments that can reduce your risk of low blood sugar episodes.7

 

References

  1. Shaw, J. et al. Canberra: Diabetes Australia.
  2. Diabetes Australia. Hypoglycaemia. Available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/hypoglycaemia Accessed: April 2019.
  3. Diabetes Queensland. What’s the right range of BGLs. Available at: https://www.diabetesqld.org.au/media-centre/2015/november/right-range-of-bgls.aspx Accessed: April 2019
  4. National Diabetes Services Scheme. Fear of hypoglycaemia factsheet. Available at: https://static.diabetesaustralia.com.au/s/fileassets/diabetes-australia/613ab86f-bca9-4a9e-a702-fe4c018ae727.pdf Accessed: April 2019.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Diabetic hypoglycaemia. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-hypoglycemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20371525 Accessed: April 2019
  6. Khunti, K. et al. Diab Res and Clin Prac. 2017; 130:121-129.

Diabetes Australia. The Low Down – About Hypos. Available at: https://thelowdown.org.au/about-hypos/ Accessed: April 2019.

What are the symptoms of hypoglycaemia?

Hypoglycaemia can be classified as mild or severe and symptoms vary from person to person. Mild signs and symptoms may include:1,2

  • Shaking, trembling or weakness
  • Sweating
  • Light headedness or dizziness
  • Headache
  • Numbness around the lips and fingers
  • Mood change.

Severe signs and symptoms may include:1,2

  • Lack of concentration
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Not able to drink or swallow
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fitting or seizures.

To find out if you are at risk, complete the Hypoglycaemia Self-Assessment survey:

1.     In the last 6 months, have you registered a blood glucose reading of 4mmol/L or below?

  • Yes
  • No

2.     In the last 6 months, have you experienced any of the following symptoms?

  • Shaking, trembling or weakness
  • Sweating
  • Mood change
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

 3.     In the last 6 months, have you experienced any of the following nocturnal symptoms?

  • Night sweats
  • Restlessness
  • A headache
  • Not feeling well rested when you wake up
  • A glucose level that's higher than normal in the morning

4.     In the last 6 months, have you worried about any of the following happening as a result of low blood sugars?

  • Having an accident or injury
  • Having a hypo while asleep
  • Being embarrassed or attracting unwanted attention
  • Needing/relying on others for help
  • Losing independence or the ability to drive

 5.     Do any of these factors apply to you?

  • Takes several kinds of medications
  • Drinks alcohol in excess or on an empty stomach
  • Doesn’t adjust insulin for meals or exercise
  • Rarely or never has warning symptoms of low blood sugar

If you answered yes to any of the above, your answers indicate you may be experiencing periods of low blood sugar. Don't ignore the signs of low blood sugar, many hypos can be prevented.3

Speak to your healthcare professional about hypoglycaemia and its management.2

 

References

1.     Diabetes Australia. Hypoglycaemia. Available at: https://static.diabetesaustralia.com.au/s/fileassets/diabetes-australia/0cf04f9d-735f-463d-a294-ce0edbdfdcaa.pdf Accessed: April 2019.

2.     Diabetes Australia. The Low Down – About Hypos. Available at: https://thelowdown.org.au/about-hypos/ Accessed: April 2019.

3.     National Diabetes Services Scheme. Fear of hypoglycaemia factsheet. Available at: https://static.diabetesaustralia.com.au/s/fileassets/diabetes-australia/613ab86f-bca9-4a9e-a702-fe4c018ae727.pdf Accessed: April 2019.

 

Patient Story

Hi, I’m Maree and I’ve been living with Type 2 Diabetes for 9 years. When I was first diagnosed, I started off by managing my diabetes through diet and exercise. I slowly progressed onto oral medication and then three years ago I was put on daily insulin injections.

The insulin has helped to stabilise my levels but if I don’t eat regular meals or enough carbs, I can get low blood sugar level episodes also referred to as hypos (hypoglycaemia). I now pay close attention to the warning signs if a hypo is coming on, so I can do something before my blood sugar drops too low. 

Whilst I do have to be vigilant with managing my Type 2 Diabetes, I haven’t let it take over my life. I still go out and enjoy the precious moments in life. I hope my story can inspire you or your loved ones living with Type 2 Diabetes.

Watch Maree's Story here

Speak to your healthcare professional if you have any questions about hypoglycaemia and its management. If you experience any hypoglycaemic symptoms in the future, ask about insulin treatments that can reduce your risk of low blood sugar episodes1

For more information on real experiences with Type 2 Diabetes visit Type 2 Diabetes Xplained.

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