What is hypoglycemic unawareness?

Hypoglycemia unawareness

Hypoglycemia (or hypoglycemic) unawareness is the inability to recognize early symptoms of low blood sugar until they become severe. When symptoms reach this stage, urgent treatment is needed to prevent further progression and life-threatening health problems, such as a seizure or stroke.

Severe symptoms of low blood sugar include confusion, slurred speech, unsteadiness when standing or walking, muscle twitching, and personality changes. People with diabetes who tightly control their blood sugar levels are more likely to have episodes of low blood sugar. Frequent and severe low blood sugar episodes are likely to evolve into hypoglycemia unawareness. The longer a person has had diabetes, the more likely it is that they will develop hypoglycemic unawareness. After a person has had one hypoglycemia unawareness episode, more are likely to occur.

Can hypoglycemic unawareness be treated?

There is no cure for hypoglycemic unawareness. Sometimes you can regain some ability to feel that your blood sugar is low.

To do this, you need to avoid having low blood sugar levels for a few weeks. This helps teach your body how to react to low blood sugar again with warning signs like sweating, feeling shaky or weak, being very hungry, and feeling dizzy.

Your doctor may raise your target blood sugar level during this time to help keep it from dropping too low. Do not change your target blood sugar levels on your own. Talk to your doctor first.

What is hypoglycemic unawareness?

Hypoglycemic unawareness is not being able to recognize low blood sugar until the symptoms are serious. The only symptom you may have is confusion. Or you may become unconscious before anyone knows you have low blood sugar. Having diabetes for a long time makes you more likely to develop this problem.

Taking steps to stay safe when you have hypoglycemic unawareness

If you have hypoglycemic unawareness, you can't tell by your symptoms when your blood sugar is low. You may become unconscious before anyone realizes you have low blood sugar, so take steps to protect yourself.

  • If possible, use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

    This is a useful tool to help predict when your blood sugar is getting too low.

  • Test your blood sugar often.

    This is especially important before activities like driving a car.

  • Keep quick-sugar foods with you at all times.

    At home, have something close at hand, such as table sugar or fruit juice. Carry some hard candy or glucose tablets when you're away from home.

  • Teach friends and family how to treat low blood sugar.

    This is important for times when you are too weak or confused to treat low blood sugar on your own.

  • If you take insulin or have hypoglycemic unawareness, always carry glucagon with you.

    Be sure your family, friends, and coworkers know how to give glucagon.

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