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Raising patients' awareness of hypos

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Nurses can raise awareness of hypos Nurses can raise awareness of hypos

The first ever Hypo Awareness Week took place 13 - 18 August with the aim of reducing incidents of hypoglycaemia in secondary care.

Diabetes UK wholeheartedly supports this NHS Diabetes campaign. We also wish to highlight its messages for healthcare professionals working in primary care, who have a vital role to play in communicating the importance of hypo awareness to their patients.

Hypos can be unpleasant and frightening and many people choose to live with higher-than-normal blood glucose levels in order to avoid experiencing them. However, these patients run an increased risk of developing serious complications such as heart attacks, strokes, blindness and ulcers that lead to limb amputation. People with diabetes should be made aware that a blood glucose level lower than 4.0mmol/l should be treated as a hypo, even if the classic symptoms of sweating, palpitations, shaking, confusion and drowsiness, are not apparent.

We would like nurses working in local communities to question their patients' hypo awareness as regularly as possible. A full and frank discussion about hypos could help patients set realistic goals, safeguarding their future health. We produce a fact sheet to help enable this.

Many of the calls to Diabetes UK's Careline concern hypos so we know how much they worry patients. People with type 1 diabetes usually, though not always, receive advice about avoiding and managing hypos, at the time of diagnosis. Hypos can occur fairly regularly but, with time and ongoing support, most people with type 1 diabetes can learn to avoid them.

The experience of people with type 2 diabetes may be very different. Because their condition is progressive, these patients might not experience a hypo until a sulphonylurea and/or insulin is introduced. This can result in poor self-care, especially where patients are older, vulnerable people, living alone. Ensuring everyone with diabetes receives adequate education about hypos, at an appropriate time, is vital and something all health professionals can work to address.

Barbara Young, chief executive, Diabetes UK

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