- by Dr Paramesh S
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- Feb 09 2017
Hypoglycemia Unawareness-Early warnings
Some people with diabetes do not have early warning signs of low blood glucose, a condition called hypoglycemia unawareness. This condition occurs most often in people with type 1 diabetes, but it can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes. People with hypoglycemia unawareness may need to check their blood glucose level more often so they know when hypoglycemia is about to occur. They also may need a change in their medications, meal plan, or physical activity routine.
Hypoglycemia unawareness develops when frequent episodes of hypoglycemia lead to changes in how the body reacts to low blood glucose levels. The body stops releasing the hormone epinephrine and other stress hormones when blood glucose drops too low. The loss of the body's ability to release stress hormones after repeated episodes of hypoglycemia is called hypoglycemia-associated autonomic failure, or HAAF.
Epinephrine causes early warning symptoms of hypoglycemia such as shakiness, sweating, anxiety, and hunger. Without the release of epinephrine and the symptoms it causes, a person may not realize that hypoglycemia is occurring and may not take action to treat it. A vicious cycle can occur in which frequent hypoglycemia leads to hypoglycemia unawareness and HAAF, which in turn leads to even more severe and dangerous hypoglycemia. Studies have shown that preventing hypoglycemia for a period as short as several weeks can sometimes break this cycle and restore awareness of symptoms. Health care providers may therefore advise people who have had severe hypoglycemia to aim for higher-than-usual blood glucose targets for short-term periods.
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