We often hear about the dangers of high blood sugars and short-term issues with low blood sugars, but we never hear about the consequences of a large number of hypos in the long-term.
Low blood glucose has an effect on many areas of our body: the brain, our neurological system, our cardiovascular system. A high number of episodes of hypoglycaemia are dangerous for us, both in the long and the short term. Studies show that intensive diabetes care significantly increases high risk of hypoglycaemia (2-3 fold).
The known complications are:
Cognitive dysfunction. It is extremely hard to concentrate with a low blood glucose, as our brain’s fuel is glucose and when we do not have enough of it, we are not able to focus or use are brain at its optimal capacity. A prolonged low level of glucose in the brain is also linked to dementia and cerebellar ataxia.
Increased values of inflammatory markers. These markers interrupt the normal processes of the body such as the adrenal function and the action of other pancreatic enzymes. In addition, the alterations in inflammatory markers causes abnormalities and injuries to the tissue of our blood vessels (endothelial tissue), which can lead to heart issues.
Vision loss. Reduced glucose concentration in the blood are a cause of retinal cell loss, retinal cell sensitivity decrease. This in turn causes a reduction in vision quality. Low blood sugars in diabetes is linked to vision disorders, such as diplopia and blurred vision. .
Sleep quality. Events of low blood sugars wake us up and cause poor sleep quality, as this waking is stressful, and the body does not rest well with interrupted sleep. Fear of low blood sugars may also become a cause of worry before sleep, and create difficulty falling asleep.
Diminished life quality. Low blood sugars can affect us by causing increased fatigue, drowsiness, inability to concentrating and increased anxiety. These feelings can make us avoid social gatherings of fear of looking strange, they can interfere with our personal life. Above all, they can make an experience that would have been amazing i.e. a walk in the forest a great struggle for survival.
These are not to scare you. Both high and low blood sugars have consequences, and high blood sugars are worse than low. However, we still need to be aware of both and keep doing our best to keep our BGs in range as much as possible.