Generally hypoglycaemia occurs when the blood glucose level is less than 4 mmols.
But in older people chronic hypoglycaemia can occur if blood glucose levels repeatedly drop to less than 4 mmols
Symptoms are often called ‘warnings’ as the feelings can be evident before the blood glucose drops very low.
Symptoms can vary from person to person
If this is recognised, then the person may be able to treat the low blood glucose before it gets any lower. The symptoms of hypoglycaemia will vary from person to person.
Some people may not get any symptoms at all particularly if they have regular low blood glucose levels.
Older people may also have ‘dampened down’ hypoglycaemia warnings or none at all. For older people there are added risk factors which can lead to hypoglycaemia:
- Advanced age
- Other illnesses or conditions as well as diabetes
- Being prescribed 5 or more medications
- Chronic renal problems
- Poor nutrition
- Acute illness
The experience of an episode of hypoglycaemia can range from it being unrecognized by the person to extreme discomfort and it can be frightening for the person and also their family, friends, and carers.
Diabetes UK thanks Fiona Kirkland for her help in preparing this section.
Reviewed March 2010
Next review September 2011