HYPOS were the hot topic at Basildon University Hospital last week as our diabetes team got behind Hypo Awareness Week (October 5 to 11).
A hypo, or a hypoglycaemia, means low blood glucose levels, which don’t provide the body with the energy it needs. There are different symptoms for different people and hypos can come on suddenly, and often go unrecognised and unreported.
At Basildon University Hospital our diabetes nursing team have been working hard to raise awareness of hypos and diabetes in general with an information stand in the main reception of the hospital.
Nicola Lewis, lead diabetes nurse, said: "We’ve been busy this week raising awareness on the wards of the importance for patients with diabetes to keep monitoring their blood sugars and looking after their diabetes, regardless of what they are admitted for.
"Our ward staff can help by ensuring regular eating and recognising the possible early signs of a hypo. We have been auditing our hypo boxes, which are on every ward and James Mackenzie (picture left, Jackie Smith, ward manager on James McKenzie ward) has won a fruit basket for having the best dressed hypo box.
"Hypos can be very serious and cause unconsciousness so it’s vital our staff are aware of the causes and consequences."
One person very aware of such consequences is Samantha Thake, 31, from Orsett, has lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of five. Luckily, she has always been able to tell when her body is about to experience a hypo; until she became pregnant.
She said: "I am quite lucky that I’ve always known when I’m about to have a hypo. I start shaking; feel a little bit tired, my lips go blue and my skin really pale.
"But when I got pregnant over two years ago, it’s quite normal to lose those early warning signs, because your body is already working hard to look after the baby. I had two hypos where I passed out and the paramedics had to be called. One was when I was in the bath and the other was at a horse show with my mum.
"Each time, the only way I can explain it is when you get stung by a stinging nettle, that sensation all around your lips, tongue, mouth and face. I’d start shaking and feel numbness.
"But hypos also affect your personality, so I’d act very strangely, for example, once in a restaurant I was insisting roast potatoes were chips. I repeat myself a lot. I also wouldn’t believe people when they were telling me I was having a hypo and trying to help. It’s almost like you become a bit delusional.
"It’s horrible not being in control and I do anything I can to stop them. It takes over your whole body and afterwards you suffer from a hypo-hangover, because your body was taken such a kicking. You have a headache and ache all over. It’s awful.
"That’s why I always carry Lucozade energy tablets, or a fizzy drink, or even sugar sachets around with me, at all times. If I feel any of the warning signs, I take action straight away."
￼Nicola Lewis (left) with some of the diabetes team on the Hypo information stand.
In order to avoid a hypo there are some key things to remember. • Don’t miss a meal
• Eat enough carbohydrate
• Eat extra carbohydrate if you are more active than normal
• Take your tablets and/or insulin injections correctly
• Don’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach or drink too much alcohol.
For more information about hypos and diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.uk
If you live with diabetes, what can you do? Diabetes UK recommend the following:
What can you do?
• Think: Do you know what a hypo is? Do you suffer from hypos?
• Ask: your doctor or nurse about hypos and discuss them as part of your consultation
• Learn: what can be done to better manage your hypos, including lifestyle and treatment options
• Keep: track of your hypos for discussion with your healthcare professional.