Fear of hypoglycaemia is driving almost three quarters of people with type 1 diabetes to run their blood glucose higher than the recommended levels, according to a new survey.
Although this may enable them to avoid the short-term effects of hypoglycaemia, repeated or long-term high blood glucose levels can lead to lasting complications.
The findings come from a survey commissioned by Sanofi, announced at the start of Hypo Awareness Week 2020, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of hypoglycaemia and its effects.
The campaign first began in hospitals in Portsmouth in April 2012, before being rolled out nationally in 2013.
What is a hypo?
Hypoglycaemia occurs when your blood glucose level drops below 4mmol/L.
It can happen if you have too much insulin in your bloodstream – for example, if you haven’t eaten as much carbohydrate as expected – or if you’ve been very active.
A hypo can lead to a range of symptoms including shaking, sweating, dizziness and blurred vision.
If your blood glucose levels are low, you need to eat or drink something that contains carbohydrate to bring your blood glucose back up to safe levels.
Dangers of high blood glucose
According to the survey, 73 per cent of people with type 1 diabetes have chosen to increase their blood glucose above their target range, because of their fear of hypoglycaemia.
However, over time, high blood glucose levels damage blood vessels, which can lead to heart, eye, kidney and nerve problems, among others.
JDRF funds research into treating and preventing these complications, but the best way to avoid them is to keep blood glucose levels within the recommended range.
Some people with type 1 diabetes may find it easier to do this by using wearable technologies, such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors.
Challenge of hypoglycaemia
Michael Connellan, Head of External Affairs at JDRF, said: “Hypo Awareness Week is an opportunity to raise concerns surrounding blood glucose management and how hypos in particular impact people’s daily lives.
“These survey findings shed light on why people with different types of diabetes find managing the condition so challenging, demonstrating the need for improved awareness of these challenges.
“The impact of COVID-19 on the diabetes community is all the more reason to provide increased support on blood glucose management. The provision of good information – as well as newer technologies – is key.”