Aims. To examine the impact of the threat of hypoglycaemic episodes on people with diabetes in Taiwan.
Background. Intensive diabetes treatment in people with diabetes helps them to achieve better glycaemic control. However, it also causes more frequent hypoglycaemic episodes and has an impact on their overall quality of life. Hypoglycaemia is accompanied by various distressing symptoms which may cause excessive fear, affecting decision making in hypoglycaemic management.
Design. Purposive sampling and in-depth, face-to-face interviews were used to collect data.
Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted from July 2008–January 2009 with 17 individuals treated with insulin who had previous hypoglycaemic episodes. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Results. Four themes were generated from the analysis, ‘inability to control fluctuations in health’, ‘challenges to interpersonal relationships’, ‘facing the disease alone’ and ‘finding a balance between competing symptoms’.
Conclusions. Hypoglycaemia is a major health issue for many people with diabetes. Understanding individuals’ experiences with hypoglycaemic episodes should help practitioners become more fully involved in promoting self-management. We identified key areas that health care providers should address, including concerns about patient education and professional support for people with diabetes experiencing hypoglycaemia, to enhance problem solving skills for them and their families.
Relevance to clinical practice. We recommend that health care providers make proper use of support groups for family caregivers or other important individuals in the lives of people with diabetes to provide education, clarification, support and guidance. In addition, health care providers also need to provide clients with hypoglycaemia-related emotional support, while enhancing diabetes self-management and problem-solving skills.