What is the incidence of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)?

Updated: Jul 23, 2020
  • Author: Osama Hamdy, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
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The incidence of hypoglycemia in a population is difficult to ascertain. Patients and physicians frequently attribute symptoms (eg, anxiety, irritability, hunger) to hypoglycemia without documenting the presence of low blood sugar. The true prevalence of hypoglycemia, with blood sugar levels below 50 mg/dL, is generally 5-10% of people presenting with symptoms suggestive of hypoglycemia.

A Brazilian study, by Lamounier et al, found that during a 4-week prospective evaluation period, at least one hypoglycemic event occurred in 91.7% of study patients with type 1 diabetes and in 61.8% of those with type 2 diabetes. This included nocturnal hypoglycemia in 54.0% and 27.4% of patients, respectively; asymptomatic hypoglycemia in 20.6% and 10.6% of patients, respectively; and severe hypoglycemic events in 20.0% and 10.3% of patients, respectively. [10]

Hypoglycemia is a known complication of several medications, and the incidence is difficult to determine with any certainty. In addition, this condition is a known complication of many therapies for diabetes; therefore, the incidence of hypoglycemia in a population of people with diabetes is very different from that in a population of people without diabetes. [11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]

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