Hypoglycemia in children with type 1 diabetes: current issues and controversies

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Hypoglycemia is a common complication of insulin therapy, particularly in the young. For children and adolescents with diabetes, the risk of hypoglycemia may not only prevent optimal glycemic control but can also add significantly to the psychosocial burden of the disease. Recently, surveys employing prospective monitoring techniques have allowed more precise information to be gained about rates of hypoglycemia, its clinical associations, and the impact of new therapies and technologies. A number of reports have estimated rates of hypoglycemic comas and convulsions to be approximately 20 events per 100 patient years in children on current conventional therapy. There is evidence that the introduction of new analog short- and longer-acting insulins and the more widespread use of continuous subcutaneous infusion therapies may allow improvements in glycemic control to occur without the usual increased rate of severe hypoglycemic episodes. The use of glucose sensor technology has brought into focus the widespread occurrence of asymptomatic hypoglycemia. Asymptomatic hypoglycemia has long been recognized, particularly at night, when the combination of excessive insulin action and suppressed counter-regulatory hormone responses put children at special risk of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia unawareness is common in the young and is associated with an increased risk of severe hypoglycemia. Whether episodes of severe hypoglycemia have long-term consequences is controversial. Early studies suggesting that the developing brain is sensitive to permanent neurological damage as a result of hypoglycemia have not been confirmed in more recent reports. Many studies have not found convincing evidence of neurological sequelae of the hypoglycemic events that are an inevitable complication of insulin therapy. The question, however, remains under active investigation. Continued prospective monitoring of hypoglycemia rates and consequences has become an essential component of diabetes management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-150
JournalPediatric Diabetes
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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