Severe and Prolonged Low Blood Glucose Increases the Frequency of Seizures
Once the patient with early type 1 diabetes leaves the hospital or doctor’s office, management moves from the hands of the doctors to those of the patient and the patient’s family. Type 1 diabetes involves a steep learning curve as the patient learns how to balance insulin, carbohydrates, exercise, stress, illness and all of the other elements of life with diabetes. In this early stage, it is important for the diabetes patient to monitor blood glucose levels frequently to avoid severe low blood glucose, known as hypoglycemia.
While low blood glucose causes shaking, anxiety, sweating and discomfort, severe low blood glucose can lead to coma, seizures, and even death. A recent study with a continuous glucose monitor found that 2-1/4 to 4 hours of hypoglycemia under 60 mg/dl was enough to trigger a seizure. These seizures occur more often at night, since hypoglycemic symptoms are not as obvious at night when the patient is sleeping. 70 percent of hypoglycemic episodes of children with diabetes occur at night time.
Since those with diabetes can also have seizures that are less noticeable than a grand mal seizure, including complex partial seizures and generalized seizures with symptoms of confusion or loss of muscle tone, the frequency of seizures in those with early type 1 diabetes is uncertain. However, the frequency increases with the number and duration of severe hypoglycemic episodes under 60 mg/dl.