This week is Hypo Awareness Week in the UK, so today I’m talking about what I do as someone with type one who is hypo unaware.
Before I start, I’m going to answer the inevitable question:
Why don’t I just restore my hypo warning signs?
If only it were that simple! I haven’t had hypo warning signs since diagnosis, which isn’t common, but it does happen. I’ve tried running myself high, but that doesn’t accomplish anything other than feeling exhausted all the time. Obviously I am not medically qualified to offer an explanation for being hypo unaware, but I’m fairly sure that my hypo warning signs were depleted in large part due to my other endocrine disorder – Addison’s disease. The symptom that led to the diagnosis of my Addison’s was frequent, severe hypos, which were caused by my body not producing enough cortisol – Addison’s is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks and destroys the adrenal glands. Like type one, I take the hormone that my body destroyed, but in the form of a tablet, rather than an injection.
Regardless of what caused my hypo unawareness, I promise that I’ve persevered with every DSN’s request to run myself high to “restore” my warning signs with no success. Also, I would be thrilled to take part in clinical trials to restore my hypo warning signs, but being so newly-diagnosed means that I’m not eligible for any as yet.
What do I personally feel when I’m hypo?
If you don’t know what a hypo is, this article lists some of the common symptoms of being hypo. However, they vary from person to person – every diabetic is different!
For me, when I start to feel hypo, I’m usually under 2.5/45, and sometimes as low as 1.0/18. I feel very confused, to the extent that I don’t know who I am, or where I am. I also feel very anxious. If someone, namely my husband, recognises these symptoms and asks if I want to test or treat, I’m told that I’m usually combative. If I happen to be standing up, I can be observed walking into things, and generally look very drunk!
How do I personally treat a hypo?
I treat a blood sugar of 3.9/70 or below with about 15g fast-acting carbs like sweets. I’m not a big fan of sweets, but I do like three veggie percy pigs. I test again after fifteen minutes, and if I’m still under 3.9, I have two more pigs. If I’m eating my next meal within half an hour, I won’t eat anything else, but I will keep a close eye on my sugars. If I’m not due to eat for a while, I have a snack of around 15g slow-release carbs like chocolate. However, I would never treat a hypo with chocolate, because the high fat content means that it won’t release into your bloodstream fast enough. See my post on veggie hypo treatments for more ideas of what to use to treat a hypo!
What do I do to help myself when I’m hypo?
Aside from the obvious one – always carrying sweets to treat a hypo, and Glucagon for a severe hypo, there are three things I use that make hypos a lot less terrifying.
I use a Dexcom G5 CGM which means that I get alarms when I’m heading low, but as with any piece of technology, it’s fallible: sometimes it doesn’t register a hypo, and sometimes it only registers one when I’m already in dangerous territory. Nonetheless, this piece of technology has literally saved my ass from severe hypos countless times, and if you’re also hypo unaware, I couldn’t recommend the investment enough. See my previous post for more info about the Dexcom, and stay tuned for a new post on why I love Dexcom coming soon!
Medical alert bracelet
I always, always wear a medical alert bracelet. I make my own because a) I’m stingy, and b) I couldn’t find a nice one with enough room to engrave both my conditions. I was once passed out from an adrenal crisis and the paramedic looked at my medical alert bracelets and immediately knew what was going on. When I was conscious, he told me how important it is to wear one! Also, when I first met my new GP, his first question was did I wear medical alert bracelets – I had actually lost my Addison’s one, and only had my diabetic one on. He gently told me off, and that made me go home and make one for both conditions!
Please offer me a seat badge and card
I ordered one of these free ‘Please offer me a seat’ badge and card sets from TFL. I was told about them by a fellow diabetic with hypo unawareness, and I’ve been meaning to order one for months, but kept forgetting. It took a grand total of one minute to order from here. I have lost consciousness from a hypo twice on TFL trains, so this would have been brilliant had it existed then. Just being able to sit down might have prevented the hypos, or at least caused less injuries when I did pass out! I don’t plan to wear the badge unless I’m on my own, but I’m not afraid to use the card should I feel the need to sit down because of my health. Obviously it’s a very personal decision as to whether you feel like you would want to use this scheme, but rest assured that you don’t have to give any details of why you’re applying, and TFL have trained their staff not to query why you have it. The scheme has been covered quite extensively in the media, so I would hope that most TFL users are aware of the scheme, and would know to offer up their seats in the same way that would for ‘Baby on board’ badge wearers. Personally, I think that anything that helps those of us with invisible health conditions is a wonderful thing. Maybe I’ll never feel the need to use my badge or card, but it gives me peace of mind to have it!
To find out more information about hypo awareness week have a look here: Diabetes UK