Hypoglycaemia in diabetes mellitus: epidemiology and clinical implications

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014 Dec;10(12):711-22. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2014.170. Epub 2014 Oct 7.


Hypoglycaemia is a frequent adverse effect of treatment of diabetes mellitus with insulin and sulphonylureas. Fear of hypoglycaemia alters self-management of diabetes mellitus and prevents optimal glycaemic control. Mild (self-treated) and severe (requiring help) hypoglycaemia episodes are more common in type 1 diabetes mellitus but people with insulin-treated type 2 diabetes mellitus are also exposed to frequent hypoglycaemic events, many of which occur during sleep. Hypoglycaemia can disrupt many everyday activities such as driving, work performance and leisure pursuits. In addition to accidents and physical injury, the morbidity of hypoglycaemia involves the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Whereas coma and seizures are well-recognized neurological sequelae of hypoglycaemia, much interest is currently focused on the potential for hypoglycaemia to cause dangerous and life-threatening cardiac complications, such as arrhythmias and myocardial ischaemia, and whether recurrent severe hypoglycaemia can cause permanent cognitive impairment or promote cognitive decline and accelerate the onset of dementia in middle-aged and elderly people with diabetes mellitus. Prevention of hypoglycaemia is an important part of diabetes mellitus management and strategies include patient education, glucose monitoring, appropriate adjustment of diet and medications in relation to everyday circumstances including physical exercise, and the application of new technologies such as real-time continuous glucose monitoring, modified insulin pumps and the artificial pancreas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Brain Ischemia / chemically induced
  • Brain Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced*
  • Hypoglycemia / epidemiology
  • Hypoglycemia / prevention & control
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Insulin / adverse effects*
  • Insulin Infusion Systems
  • Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Myocardial Ischemia / chemically induced
  • Myocardial Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Pancreas, Artificial


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin