Recognition, Prevention, and Proactive Management of Hypoglycemia in Patients with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

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Jeff Unger, MD and Christopher Parkin, MS

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Postgraduate Medicine:

Volume 123 No. 4


Clinical Focus

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DOI: 10.3810/pgm.2011.07.2306
Abstract: Hypoglycemia is the key barrier that prevents patients from optimizing glycemic control with the use of pharmacotherapeutic interventions. Optimal glycemic control for patients with type 1 diabetes (T1DM) includes methods that provide glucose-regulated physiologic insulin replacement or secretion in association with glucose monitoring methods designed to predict and prevent acute extreme changes in glycemic variability. Patients with T1DM experience an average of 2 episodes of symptomatic hypoglycemia each week and at least 1 episode of severe, disabling hypoglycemia annually. Asymptomatic hypoglycemia is common, as shown in studies using continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). Episodes of hypoglycemia (symptomatic and asymptomatic) impair counterregulatory defenses against subsequent events, resulting in the inability to respond to and recover from serious hypoglycemia. This defective counterregulation is known as hypoglycemic-associated autonomic failure. When patients are prescribed a more intensive medication regimen or reinforcing lifestyle interventions, such as medical nutrition therapy and exercise therapy, providers should also assess their ability to proactively identify and manage hypoglycemia. Although self-monitoring of blood glucose regimens, such as pre- and post-meal and periodic middle-of-the-night glucose testing, can help predict the risk of developing hypoglycemia, CGM technology allows patients to receive real-time notification of impending events either through preset alarms or simply by looking at the device display. This review explores the utility of initiating CGM within the primary care setting for patients at high risk for developing hypoglycemia.

Keywords: type 1 diabetes mellitus , continuous glucose monitoring , self-monitoring of blood glucose , insulin