Perceived symptoms of hypoglycaemia in elderly type 2 diabetic patients treated with insulin

Diabet Med. 1998 May;15(5):398-401. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9136(199805)15:5<398::AID-DIA595>3.0.CO;2-B.


Elderly insulin-treated diabetic patients have a high risk of severe hypoglycaemia, yet their hypoglycaemic symptom profile has attracted little research. In this study, the frequency and intensity of symptoms of hypoglycaemia were recorded using a validated questionnaire in 132 insulin-treated diabetic patients, aged 70 years or more. Principal components analysis (PCA) was used to discover the factorial structure of the symptoms. Lightheadedness and unsteadiness were prominent symptoms in the elderly patients. PCA suggested three separate groups of symptoms: (1) those related specifically to impairment of co-ordination and articulation; (2) more general neuroglycopenic symptoms, and (3) autonomic symptoms. The frequency and classification of hypoglycaemic symptoms in this elderly population is different from those seen in younger diabetic patients treated with insulin. Neurological symptoms of hypoglycaemia were more commonly reported and may be misinterpreted as features of cerebrovascular disease. Health professionals and carers involved in the treatment and education of diabetic patients should be aware of the age-specific differences in hypoglycaemic symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Dizziness / chemically induced
  • Dizziness / physiopathology
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / chemically induced
  • Hypoglycemia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / adverse effects
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Postural Balance / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweating / drug effects
  • Sweating / physiology
  • Tremor / chemically induced
  • Tremor / physiopathology


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin