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Asymptomatic hypoglycaemia in Type 1 diabetes: incidence and risk factors

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AIM: The epidemiology of asymptomatic (silent) hypoglycaemia is not well-described. We investigated incidence and risk factors for asymptomatic hypoglycaemia in Type 1 diabetes.

METHODS: A cohort of 153 people with Type 1 diabetes participated in 6 days of blinded continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and recording of hypoglycaemia symptoms. At entry, hypoglycaemia awareness was classified (by three different methods) and HbA1c and C-peptide were measured. Hypoglycaemic episodes were defined as interstitial glucose ≤ 3.9 mmol/l (IG3.9 ) or ≤ 3.0 mmol/l (IG3.0 ) for ≥ 15 min, and were considered asymptomatic if no hypoglycaemic symptoms were reported.

RESULTS: At thresholds IG3.9 and IG3.0 , the incidence rates of hypoglycaemic episodes were 5.0 (7.9) [median (IQR)] and 1.3 (3.4) episodes/person-week, respectively. Three-quarters of episodes were asymptomatic. In total, 77% and 52% of participants experienced one or more episode of asymptomatic hypoglycaemia at IG3.9 and IG3.0 [3.0 (6.2) and 1.0 (2.3) asymptomatic episodes/person-week]. At multivariate analysis, reduced awareness was positively associated with asymptomatic hypoglycaemia, particularly nocturnal events, and negatively with symptomatic hypoglycaemia. High insulin dose was associated with increased risk of both asymptomatic and symptomatic hypoglycaemia, whereas low HbA1c and long diabetes duration were risk factors only for symptomatic hypoglycaemia.

CONCLUSIONS: Asymptomatic hypoglycaemia constitutes the majority of hypoglycaemic events in Type 1 diabetes. Reduced hypoglycaemia awareness and high insulin dose are risk factors for asymptomatic hypoglycaemia, but other conventional risk factors for severe hypoglycaemia do not correlate with risk of asymptomatic episodes. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDiabetic Medicine Online
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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© 2018 Diabetes UK.

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