For people with Type 1 diabetes and those using insulin, hypos (low blood sugar levels) are part of life. But they can be scary and need quick treatment. So this week we wanted to shine a spotlight on hypos.
If you’ve got friends or family with Type 1 diabetes – would you be able to recognise the symptoms of a hypo? Would you hand them chocolate or jelly babies?
Have a look through the information, and have a go at our quiz
If you’ve got Type 1 diabetes yourself, have a read of Richard’s story about being hypo unaware and being one of the first to have an islet cell transplant. It’s an amazing story.
We also know that lots of people with Type 1 are afraid of having a hypo, and will do anything to prevent one. We’ve got some tips from a clinical psychologist to help withhypo anxiety.
Hypos: the basics
Hypos occur when somebody’s blood sugar levels drop. This is dangerous as it means the body doesn’t have enough energy to work properly.
Why do blood sugar levels drop?
This can be the million dollar question. There are some things that we know will make your blood sugars drop too low, like taking too much insulin, unplanned physical activity, not eating enough carbs, or even hot weather. But sometimes there is no obvious reason at all, which makes Type 1 diabetes a challenging condition to live with.
What are the symptoms?
There are some common symptoms of a hypo, but everybody will experience a hypo slightly differently – so ask your friends and family what their symptoms are.Check out our picture list of the common hypo signs.
How do you treat a hypo?
It’s important that you treat a hypo quickly with fast-acting sugar, so that blood sugar levels rise again. Good hypo treatments include Lucozade, full-sugar fizzy drinks (not diet versions), orange juice and sweets like jelly babies. Bad hypo treatments include chocolate (the fat in chocolate means the sugar takes longer to get into the blood) and whole fruit like a banana (the fibre slows down absorption of the sugar).
Now you know the basics – try our quick quiz below. Or if you want more detail, see ourinformation on hypos and hypers.
Some research estimates that up to 45 per cent of people with Type 1 diabetes have some degree of hypo unawareness. As you can imagine, in a condition that relies on self-management, not knowing when your blood sugars are low can be dangerous.
Richard Lane used to be severely hypo unaware, often completely collapsing to the floor as a result. He tells his fascinating story and talks about his islet cell transplant.Read Richard's story.
What research are we doing?
It’s not as simple as you’re either hypo aware or hypo unaware. Did you know that people with Type 1 diabetes can lose their hypo awareness over time and become hypo unaware – particularly if they’ve had very tight control. Losing hypo awareness can also be common in pregnancy, but hypo awareness is something you can regain.
It’s really important that we understand more about hypos and what’s going on in the body when people are unaware so that we can improve treatments.Read our blog about the research we’re currently funding.
Top tips from people with diabetes
"Buy a good set of scales to weigh your carbs - more accurate measurements mean you can have the right amount of insulin and hopefully less hypos and hypers."Nicola, 36, from Redditch.Nicola, 36, from Redditch.
"If you have a hypo while driving on a motorway, you are entitled to stop on the hard shoulder as it's considered an emergency. Treat yourself, the follow the rules of testing and treating until you are safe to continue driving."Evie, 67, from Bromsgrove.Evie, 67, from Bromsgrove.
Just because I go hypo time to time doesn't mean I'm a 'bad diabetic'. It just means I've miscalculated my insulin or that my body's going through a change. There are so many factors that can affect your blood sugar that you should never take it personally.
Jonny Labey, Eastenders' Actor