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Hypos and hypers

The key to successfully managing diabetes is to get the perfect balance between medication and insulin injections with food and activity. When the balance isn’t right one of 2 things can happen: if your glucose levels drop too low then it can result in a hypo (hypoglycaemia) and if they are too high it can result in a hyper (hyperglycaemia).


When glucose levels are too low and unable to provide enough energy for your body then you may experience a hypo. This could happen due to excess insulin, missing meals, not getting enough carbs, unplanned physical activity or large quantities of alcohol, especially without food.

Episodes can cause the following symptoms:

  • Feeling shaky
  • Sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Feeling emotional or grumpy

A hypo needs to be treated immediately with fast-acting carbohydrates like with a small glass of a sugary, non-diet, at least 3 glucose tablets or glucose gel, at least 5 sweets or a small carton of pure fruit juice. Many people will find a treatment that seems to work best for them and always have it to hand just in case.


At the other end of the scale glucose levels can become too high, which can occur if you have missed a dose of medication, eaten more carbohydrates than your body/medication can cope with. It can also occur if you’re feeling stressed, unwell from infection or over-treating a hypo.

Episodes can cause the following symptoms:

  • Urinating more often than normal, especially throughout the night
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Suffering from headaches
  • Feeling tired and lethargic

How to treat a hyper will depend on what has caused it, but if they are a regular occurrence then you will need to speak with your healthcare professional to assess your medication and lifestyle. On the other hand, if they are experienced only on the odd occasion, you may simply need to take more insulin.