What is the impact of hypoglycaemia on quality of life among adults with type 1 diabetes?

A new systematic review from HypoRESOLVE has been published

By Hannah Chatwin

Hypoglycaemia (or hypo) occurs when blood glucose drops too low. This is a common side effect of insulin treatment. Symptoms include sweating, trembling, confusion, and sometimes, loss of consciousness. Episodes range from self-treatable to severe. Severe episodes need the help of another person for recovery and, in rare situations, can be life-threatening. Hypos can be unpredictable. They affect people’s daily lives, including their sleep, work, and driving safety.

Research shows that hypoglycaemia can affect well-being and quality of life, though studies define and measure quality of life differently. We wanted to review the research and summarize what is known about hypoglycaemia and quality of life. We found 30 relevant articles and summarized their results. This work was part of the Hypo-RESOLVE Project.

We found that:

    • No studies have examined the impact of hypos on quality of life using hypo-specific quality of life measures
    • Studies using measures of diabetes-specific quality of life, health status (i.e., physical functioning), depression, and anxiety, did not show an association with hypoglycaemia.
    • Both self-treatable and severe hypoglycaemia were related fear of hypoglycaemia. Fear of hypoglycaemia is an intense fear of the risk and/or experiences of hypoglycaemia. While it is appropriate to be concerned about hypoglycaemia, fear can be a serious problem, when it affects as person’s daily life and the way they manage their diabetes.
    • Severe hypoglycaemia was related to higher diabetes distress, and lower emotional well-being.

More research is needed to look at aspects of quality of life beyond emotional factors, so that we can understand the full impact of hypos on quality of life. Our review found that hypoglycaemia was related to fear of hypoglycaemia, diabetes distress, and emotional well-being. Addressing these factors could support adults with type 1 diabetes to live well with their condition.

Reference: Chatwin H, Broadley M, Speight J, Cantrell A, Sutton A, Heller S, de Galan B, Hendrieckx C, & Pouwer F. The impact of hypoglycaemia on quality of life outcomes among adults with type 1 diabetes: A systematic review. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 2021. Published online ahead of print. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2021.108752.

To read more of our research on hypoglycaemia, check out our previous blogs on this topic.

If you would like to know more about managing fear of hypoglycaemia and diabetes distress, check out the NDSS Factsheets.

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