Hypoglycaemia – Adult

Hypoglycaemia (Blood glucose under 4.0 mmol/l) is potentially fatal and should be treated. it may be defined as “mild” self-treated, or “severe” treated by a third party i.e. you.

Hypoglycaemia is a common side-effect of insulin and sulfonylureas (they start with gli-) as they both work by lowering glucose concentration in the blood. Other diabetic medications work by preventing glucose rise, thus posing a lesser risk.

 

Signs & Symps

  • Autonomic: Sweating, Palpitations, Shaking, Hunger
  • Neuroglycopenic: Confusion, Drowsy, Odd behaviour, Incoordination, Speech difficulty
  • General: Nausea, Headache

Risk Factors

  • Medical: 
    • Diabetic: Strict control, Long term Insulin, Lipohypertrophy at injection sites,Impaired awareness of hypoglycaemia
    • Organ dysfunction: Severe hepatic dysfunction, Renal impairment, Cognitive dysfunction/dementia, Endocrine (Addisons, hypothyroid, hypopituitary)
    • GIT: Gastroenteritis, impaired absorption, Bariatric surgery
    • Medication: Concurrent use of medicines with hypoglycaemic agents e.g. warfarin, quinine, salicylates, fibrates, sulphonamides (including cotrimoxazole), monoamine oxidase inhibitors, NSAIDs, probenecid, somatostatin analogues, SSRIs.
    • Sepsis
    • Terminal illness
  • Lifestyle:
    • Reduced/Irregular intake: Poor diet, Irregular lifestyle, Alcohol
    • Increased use: Exercise (relative to usual), Early pregnancy, Breast feeding
    • Poor control: Increasing age, No or inadequate blood glucose monitoring, Alcohol

Treatment

Conscious & Orientated

  1. 15-20g fast acting glucose
    • 4-5 jelly babies
    • 3-4 heaped teaspoons of sugar dissolved in water (milk delays absorption)
    • 150-200ml fresh fruit juice
  2. Rpt Blood Glucose 10-15min
    • if blood glucose remains <4.0mmol/l step one may be repeated up to 3 times in total
  3. Blood Glucose remains <4.0mmol/l
    • 150-200ml 10% Glucose IV
    • 1mg Glucogon IM (if starved or sulfonylureas may not work well)
  4. Blood Glucose >4.0mmol/l – Give long acting Carbs
    • 2 Biscuits
    • 1 Slice bread/toast
    • 200-300ml milk (not soya)
    • Meal
  5. Don’t omit insulin injections
  6. Diabetic review: most patients can be followed up by diabetic nurses but some may need admission.

Conscious but agitated, confused, unable to cooperate

  • If patient CAN cooperate – follow guide above
  • If patient CAN’T cooperate
    • 1.5 -2 tubes 40% glucose gel (Glucogel) squeezed into the mouth between the teeth and gums (can be substituted for step 1 above)
    • 1mg Glucogon IM (if starved or sulfonylureas may not work well)
    • Follow subsequent steps as above

Unconscious, seizures, very aggressive

Start at step 3 above (while managing ABC), the choice of whether to use IV glucose or IM glycogen will be determined by practicality of achieving IV/IO access.

Although you will need to follow the remaining steps the patient will almost certainly require admission.

 

Reference

Joint British Diabetic Society – The Hospital Management of Hypoglycaemia in Adults with Diabetes Mellitus 3rd edition

 

 

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