Many people with Type 2 diabetes experience potentially dangerous episodes of low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, according to a first-of-its-kind review by researchers at the University of Leicester and Leicester’s Hospitals. Approximately 28 million people in the United States and roughly 3 million people in the United Kingdom have Type 2 diabetes.
Hypoglycemia, which is defined in most people as a blood sugar level below 70 mg/dl, is commonly caused by taking certain diabetes medicines, skipping meals, consuming alcohol, or exercising. Typical symptoms include confusion, shakiness, hunger, headaches, irritability, and pale skin.
To determine the prevalence of episodes of low blood sugar in those with Type 2 diabetes, researchers reviewed a series of studies including a total of 532,542 people with Type 2. They found that 45% of the participants had experienced mild hypoglycemia and 6% had experienced severe hypoglycemia. On average, each person had 19 episodes of mild hypoglycemia and just less than one severe episode per year. Instances of low blood sugar were especially common among people taking insulin, but they were still fairly prevalent among those on other Type 2 diabetes treatment regimens.
“Our results highlight an urgent need for raising awareness amongst patients and health-care professionals about hypoglycemia,” noted postgraduate researcher Chloe Louise Edridge. “This study particularly highlights the need for patient education to raise awareness of hypoglycemia and the consideration of a patient’s hypoglycemia risk by health-care professionals when prescribing diabetes treatments.”
For more information about the research, read the article “‘Real world’ link between type 2 diabetes, low blood sugar risk” or see the study in the journal PLOS One. And to learn more about preventing and handling instances of low blood sugar, read the article “Hypoglycemia Symptoms: Why a Short List Is Not Enough.”