Frequent hypoglycemia among elderly patients with poor glycemic control

Arch Intern Med. 2011 Feb 28;171(4):362-4. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.539.


Background: Episodes of hypoglycemia are particularly dangerous in the older population. To reduce the risk of hypoglycemia, relaxation of the standard hemoglobin A(1c) (HbA(1c)) goals has been proposed for frail elderly patients. However, the risk of hypoglycemia in this population with higher HbA(1c) levels is unknown.

Methods: Patients 69 years or older with HbA(1C) values of 8% or greater were evaluated with blinded continuous glucose monitoring for 3 days.

Results: Forty adults (mean [SD] age, 75 [5] years; HbA(1C) value, 9.3% [1.3%]; diabetes duration, 22 [14] years; 28 patients [70%] with type 2 diabetes mellitus; and 37 [93%] using insulin) were evaluated. Twenty-six patients (65%) experienced 1 or more episodes of hypoglycemia (glucose level <70 mg/dL). Among these, 12 (46%) experienced a glucose level below 50 mg/dL and 19 (73%), a level below 60 mg/dL. The average number of episodes was 4; average duration, 46 minutes. Eighteen patients (69%) had at least 1 nocturnal episode (10 pm to 6 am). Of the total of 102 hypoglycemic episodes, 95 (93%) were unrecognized by finger-stick glucose measurements performed 4 times a day or by symptoms.

Conclusions: Hypoglycemic episodes are common in older adults with poor glycemic control. Raising HbA(1C) goals may not be adequate to prevent hypoglycemia in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / blood
  • Hypoglycemia / prevention & control*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A