According to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism this month, certain individuals may be at a higher risk when compared to other diabetic patients for developing dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia, and a lack of information and resources may be partially to blame.

Specific interventions employed to protect individuals at risk for experiencing dangerously low blood sugar and new strategies to increase their awareness of the associated symptoms may be largely unknown and/or totally underutilized. Furthermore, patients with type 2 diabetes are at especially high risk for these severe hypoglycemic events. The Endocrine Society’s Chief Professional & Clinical Affairs Officer Robert W. Lash, MD, stated, “While hypoglycemia is well recognized as a threat among people with type 1 diabetes and their healthcare providers, the danger it poses to people with type 2 diabetes is underappreciated.”

Lash, the first author of the study, further noted in a recent press release, “In the past two decades, healthcare providers and patients have made important strides to achieve improved blood glucose control to prevent or delay complications such as heart, eye and kidney disease. However, we need to be aware that emphasizing these lower blood glucose goals may unintentionally put individuals with type 2 diabetes at greater risk of hypoglycemia.”

The study examined available resources for managing hypoglycemia, including but not limited to the use of continuous glucose monitors to incorporate better management strategies in clinical practice. Through the examination of clinical guidance documents, clinical tools, quality measures, and quality initiatives related to the management of type 2 diabetes and hypoglycemia, the final analysis suggests that efforts to prevent hypoglycemia should focus on educating patients at high risk on how to recognize and manage hypoglycemic events. Additionally, recommendations include assisting primary care providers in developing strategies to identify high-risk patients and to recognize the benefit of establishing individualized glycemic targets for these individuals.

Severe hypoglycemia can cause seizures, loss of consciousness, and death. Episodes caused by insulin are not only dangerous, but they are also costly, with roughly $600 million in costs attributed to emergency room visits between 2007 and 2011 by individuals experiencing episodes of hypoglycemia.