Managing hypos with type 2 diabetes

Everyone with diabetes is advised to try to keep their blood glucose levels steady and within the recommended range.

Hypos are when the blood glucose levels drop too low. Treatment is usually very 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, a sandwich, piece of fruit, biscuits and milk or the next meal. (For more detailed information about hypos see resources for links to further information).

Many people we talked to had experienced episodes when they had low blood glucose levels and had had a mild hypo. They described the sensation of a hypo as being lightheaded, ‘shaky’, ‘trembly’, having tingling lips and feeling confused. Most people said that once they had experienced low blood sugar, they learned how to recognise the early signs and knew how to deal with them. Mild hypos are more likely to happen if the person has not eaten enough food after they have taken their medication, or if someone has taken too much exercise without having built up enough energy. If someone on insulin takes too high a dose, they may also have a hypo.

Malcolm explains how important it is to keep glucose levels balanced and describes what he does…

Age at interview 54

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 39

View profile

Philip describes how he feels ‘light’ when his levels are too low.

Age at interview 81

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 72

View profile

The remedy for a hypo is to raise blood glucose levels as quickly as possible either by drinking a sweet drink e.g. fruit juice or Lucozade, or some sweets. Some people say they carry fruit drinks, chocolate bars and biscuits around with them all the time; others keep emergency supplies of juice etc. at work and also in their cars. You should start to feel better after drinking/eating something sweet after about 15 minutes.

When Balvinder’s levels are dipping too low he starts to feel ‘shaky’ and eats a piece of fruit…

Age at interview 69

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 34

View profile

If the hypo is more severe, and the person is unable to eat, it is probably better and safer to call a doctor or ambulance. Some carers of people with diabetes may feel they can put a glucose gel (e.g. Glucogel) inside the mouth, but usually better for this to be dealt with by a doctor (as the person may be unable to swallow). In some cases it will be necessary for a glucagon injection to be administered.

Gareth used to be a paramedic and so knows the difference between hypos and hypers. He says a…

Age at interview 61

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 50

View profile

Watching someone having a hypo can be worrying and often people around will not understand what is happening. The symptoms, which include dizziness, mental confusion, sweating, going grey in the face, unsteady uncoordinated movements can lead them to think that the person is drunk or high on drugs.

Eyes, feet and kidneys with type 2 diabetes

People with type 2 diabetes can experience long-term complications including eye problems (retinopathy), damage to the nerves (neuropathy), kidney disease (nephropathy) and heart problems (cardiovascular...