Experiences of hypoglycaemia unawareness amongst people with Type 1 diabetes: A qualitative investigation

Chronic Illn. 2014 Sep;10(3):180-91. doi: 10.1177/1742395313513911. Epub 2013 Dec 2.


Objectives: To explore the experiences of people who have hypoglycaemia unawareness and its impact on their everyday lives.

Methods: In-depth interviews with 38 people with Type 1 diabetes who have hypoglycaemia unawareness. Data analysis used an inductive, thematic approach.

Results: Participants reported imposed and self-imposed changes to their lives following onset of hypoglycaemia unawareness including: leaving employment, curtailing pastimes and spending more time at home or being supervised by others. However, some reported getting on with life by downplaying the significance and impact of their condition, which could put their health and safety at risk. Many relied on frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose and/or prompting from others to detect hypoglycaemia. Some expressed concerns about becoming a burden on family and/or responding in irrational and aggressive ways to others' suggestions to test for and treat hypoglycaemia. Participants reported responding best to composed and directive prompts from family. Health professionals mainly advised on clinical aspects, and did not enquire about the emotional and psychosocial impact of hypoglycaemia unawareness.

Discussion: Hypoglycaemia unawareness can have a profound impact on people's confidence, careers and personal relationships. Healthcare professionals should pay more attention during consultations to the emotional and social aspects of living with hypoglycaemia unawareness.

Keywords: Type 1 diabetes; hypoglycaemia; hypoglycaemia unawareness; patient experiences; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Awareness*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Emotions
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / blood
  • Hypoglycemia / diagnosis*
  • Hypoglycemia / psychology*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Support


  • Blood Glucose