Patients with diabetes fearful of discussing symptoms of hyperglycaemia, survey shows

Survey reveals only 1 in 3 diabetes patients discuss symptoms of high blood glucose levels with their nurse or doctor and 33% do not take their mealtime insulin as prescribed

Patients with diabetes are not discussing symptoms of high blood glucose levels with their nurse or doctor for fear of being chastised, and over half are frustrated by their diabetes management, a survey has revealed.

A third of those surveyed said they took their insulin during or after a meal. Picture: iStock

The survey, conducted in October this year and sponsored by healthcare company Novo Nordisk, took in 200 people living with type 1 or 2 diabetes in the UK, who required mealtime insulin to control their blood glucose levels.

It showed that only 1 in 3 discussed symptoms of hyperglycaemia with their nurse or doctor, and 33% did not take their mealtime insulin as prescribed, despite it affecting their physical and mental well-being.

Reported symptoms of hyperglycaemia ranged from tiredness, thirst and needing to urinate frequently to difficulty concentrating, reduced productivity and irritability. Serious long-term complications can lead to amputation and blindness.

Fear of chastisement 

Reasons cited for not discussing symptoms with a healthcare professional included fear of being chastised for not taking insulin properly, and patients believing they should be able to handle the condition themselves.

A third of those surveyed said they took their insulin during or after a meal. However, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance says that mealtime insulin should be taken before meals to control a post-prandial glucose ‘spike’.

Grace Vanterpool, diabetes nurse consultant at London North West Healthcare NHS Trust and Diabetes Integrated Care Ealing, advised that patient education and actively coaching them on symptoms of high blood sugar was the key to better management.

She said: ‘There is a growing body of evidence linking the impact of regular high blood sugar with serious complications, such as cardiovascular disease, blindness and nerve damage, so it’s our responsibility as nurses to ensure our patients understand the implications of missing or taking their insulin dose late.’

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