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Survey reveals hidden incidence of 'hypos' among people with Type 2 diabetes

Half (49 per cent) of people with Type 2 diabetes (excluding those treated with insulin) experienced at least one 'hypo' – an episode of low blood glucose that can result in symptoms ranging from sweating to a loss of consciousness – during a fortnight period, according to a new survey by Diabetes UK.

Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and AstraZeneca (AZ), the survey questioned 1,954 people with Type 2 diabetes in the UK and provides insight into the prevalence and impact of mild to moderate hypos.

Time off work

Over half (52 per cent) of those surveyed believe mild to moderate hypos affect their quality of life and one in ten reported having to take at least one day off work in the last year as a result of a mild to moderate hypo.

Everyday impact

“Previous research around hypoglycaemia has tended to focus on the impact of severe hypoglycaemia," said Simon O’Neill, Diabetes UK's Director of Care, Information and Advocacy.

"This survey, however, reveals the everyday impact of mild and moderate hypos among people with Type 2 diabetes.

Hypos despite not taking insulin

“Importantly, this survey has also shown us that even people who are not taking insulin are having regular hypos. These people need to be reassessed by their GP to ensure they are taking the appropriate medication.

No structured patient education received

“Almost 90 per cent of people with diabetes in the UK have never received structured diabetes education, which is key to improved self-management and a reduced risk of hypoglycaemia. It’s therefore vital that we make this area a priority for improvement. We want to see hypos become the exception rather than the rule.”

Day-to-day tasks affected

The survey also revealed that more than one third reported that mild to moderate hypos affect their ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, including housework (35 per cent), social activities (37 per cent), sports activities (35 per cent) and sleep (35 per cent).  Nearly half of those questioned said they worry about having a mild to moderate hypo (47 per cent) and that their emotional wellbeing is affected (47 per cent).

Hypos and Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is treated with a healthy balanced diet and regular physical activity, but medication is often also required. Hypos only occur in people with Type 2 diabetes who have to take certain medications.

Treating a hypo

Treating a hypo is usually simple and requires taking some fast-acting carbohydrate, such as a sugary drink or some glucose tablets, and following this up with some longer-acting carbohydrate, such as a cereal bar or sandwich.

"Nagging fear"

Tim Page, 53, from Wadhurst, East Sussex, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in November 2003.

He said: “I experience hypos fairly regularly, most of which are mild but nonetheless have a huge effect on my life.

“Even the mildest of hypos can leave me feeling weak and disorientated, very tired – in fact, exhausted.

“This is followed by what I can only describe as a real hunger pang, so simple day-to-day things that most people take for granted, like driving or looking after your children, sometimes even going out for a walk, can be difficult for me and mean I’ve always got this nagging fear at the back of my mind.”

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