Living with hypoglycemia

J Gen Intern Med. 1998 Dec;13(12):799-804. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1998.00243.x.


Objective: To increase understanding of the everyday experiences of hypoglycemia for patients with type 1 diabetes through the use of a narrative research approach.

Setting: Center for diabetes treatment and research.

Design: Cross-sectional assessment using a narrative research approach.

Patients/participants: Twenty outpatients (aged 21-30 years) diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for at least 10 years.

Measurements and main results: Experiences of hypoglycemia were investigated during in-depth, semistructured interviews that were tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed to identify common themes. Self-report measures of depression (Revised Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression) and anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory) also were administered. Subjects reported the following common themes: interpersonal conflict including fears of dependency and loss of control and problems addressing concerns about hypoglycemia with significant others; difficulty making sense of their hypoglycemic behaviors in relation to their usual ways of functioning; and perceived lack of understanding by others, including physicians, about the emotional experiences of hypoglycemia. Subjects were neither clinically depressed nor anxious.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that type 1 diabetes patients' experiences of hypoglycemia negatively affect their interpersonal relationships and views of themselves. Hypoglycemia also was described as an extremely private experience that was rarely discussed with others. Patient education and professional support in the treatment of hypoglycemia are recommended to enhance treatment decision making for patients with type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / etiology
  • Hypoglycemia / psychology*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Physician-Patient Relations