UAE doctors urge patients to report hypoglycaemic attacks

The International Diabetes Foundation’s World Awake study found that 41 per cent of diabetics had undergone such an attack in the last 30 days. Of these, 49 per cent had not been to see their doctors about it.

ABU DHABI // Doctors have confirmed the results of a worldwide survey that found a large minority of diabetics regularly suffered hypoglycaemic attacks but did not report them.

The International Diabetes Foundation’s World Awake study found that 41 per cent of diabetics had undergone such an attack in the past 30 days. Of these, 49 per cent had not been to see their doctor about it.

Hypoglycaemic attacks occur when a diabetic person’s blood glucose falls below a critical level. They are common at night-time, with the sufferer waking up drenched in sweat, having palpitations or with a headache.

In extreme cases, the patient can fall into a coma or even die.

“Many patients do not report these symptoms to doctors, even though they are frightening,” said Dr Tarek Fiad, consultant endocrinologist at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. A British doctor, Dr Fiad has been working at SKMC for four years.

“It’s a feeling of doom and gloom. I have seen that patients who have suffered these attacks are very scared of getting another one and sometimes resist treatment.

“This affects their quality of life because they sleep poorly. When they wake up, they are tired and not refreshed.”

While the findings were collated from 1,000 diabetics in other countries, they are particularly relevant here because new statistics show that 19 per cent of the population suffers from the disease.

The results also revealed that about 77 per cent of diabetics feared a hypoglycaemic attack during the night, with 19 per cent suffering severe insomnia as a result of these fears.

Dr Fiad said simple steps, such as eating a small snack or checking one’s blood sugar before going to sleep, could help to prevent night-time hypoglycaemia.

“A change in medication might be required. Also, we suggest that patients put an alarm and wake up once in the middle of the night,” said Dr Fiad.

He said healthcare workers should offer their patients more advice about how to prevent hypoglycaemic attacks.

“We need to remind patients about these things at each visit because they might forget.

“Patients with diabetes typically have a list of items to remember. With proper education, patients will be empowered to detect the symptoms,” Dr Fiad said.

Dr Mohammed Hassanein, a consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at Dubai Hospital, agreed that education was the key.

“The symptoms of an attack of hypoglycaemia during the night are vague and therefore these symptoms are often missed,” said the Egyptian-British doctor.

“If a person does not usually suffer from a headache in the morning but wakes up with one or feels tired in the morning, these can be symptoms.

“Sometimes people might find it difficult to wake up or might talk while they are asleep. Some patients can also feel moody or gloomy for a day or longer.”

He said sometimes doctors and nurses were not thorough enough in testing patients.

“In some cases, we use a glucose monitor that checks blood sugar every 10 minutes. Doctors and nurses can monitor the blood sugar through this and get the information they need,” Dr Hassanein said.

He said patients should “ask themselves if they had the right amount of food, if they exercised more than they are used to, or if they consumed alcohol”.

arizvi2@thenational.ae

Published: November 13, 2014 04:00 AM

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