Diabet. Med. 30, 209–215 (2013)
Aims Despite improvements in insulin therapy, hypoglycaemia remains an inevitable part of life for many people with Type 1 diabetes. Little attention has been paid to how individuals self-treat hypoglycaemia and their likes and dislikes of clinically recommended treatments. We explored participants’ experiences of self-treating hypoglycaemia after attending a structured education programme for people with Type 1 diabetes. Our aims were: to identify treatments that are acceptable to people with Type 1 diabetes; and to provide recommendations for promoting self-treatment in line with clinical guidelines.
Methods Thirty adults with Type 1 diabetes were recruited from the Dose Adjustment for Normal Eating (DAFNE) programme in the UK. Study participants were interviewed post-course and 6 and 12 months later, enabling their experiences to be explored over time.
Results Study participants described a poor knowledge of how to self-treat hypoglycaemia correctly pre-course. Post-course, individuals often struggled to adhere to clinically recommended guidelines because of: panic, disorientation, hunger sensations and consequent difficulties ingesting fixed quantities of fast-acting carbohydrate; use of sweets to manage hypoglycaemia; reversion to habituated practices when cognitive impairment as a result of hypoglycaemia supervened; difficulties ingesting dextrose tablets; and other people’s anxieties about under-treatment.
Conclusions Historical experiences of hypoglycaemia and habituated practices can influence present self-treatment approaches. Professionals need to be aware of the range of difficulties individuals may experience restricting themselves to fixed quantities of fast-acting carbohydrate to manage hypoglycaemia. There may be merit in developing a more acceptable range of treatments tailored to people’s own preferences, circumstances and needs.