“It's embarrassing. I get angry. I get frustrated.”: Understanding severe hypoglycemia and glucagon usage from the perspectives of people with type 1 diabetes

Document Type


Publication Date



Introduction: This study characterized the emotional impact of severe hypoglycemia, views of glucagon, and barriers to glucagon use from the perspective of adults with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Methods: Participants included individuals recruited from the T1D Exchange online community. The current study conducted 7 focus groups consisting of adults with T1D (N = 38, average age 49.4, SD = 16.11 years). Average duration of diabetes was 34.4 years (SD = 17.3) and average self-reported A1c was 6.8 % (SD = 0.7). Focus group interviews were recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed. Results: A range of emotions was expressed about severe hypoglycemia including fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, shame, and embarrassment. Participants frequently identified prescription cost and insurance deductibles as barriers to glucagon use. Participants were also concerned about ease of administration—how difficult it is to prepare the glucagon in an emergency. Many participants expressed a preference for auto-injectables over nasal administration. Timing of glucagon action and time to recovery were high priorities. Some participants, while they had not self-administered glucagon, were interested in a mini-dose glucagon they could self-administer. They also identified desirable characteristics of glucagon treatment including reduced cost, long shelf-life, and quick activation. Conclusions: These results highlight the attitudes about severe hypoglycemia and emergency treatment with glucagon. Healthcare professionals should assess glucagon training needs and knowledge when they meet with their patients with diabetes.