I know that type 1 diabetics do not produce enough (possibly none) insulin since beta cells of pancreas are damaged and as far as I know glucagon is produced by alpha cells (which are healthy in diabetic body, I suppose). So, my question is that since glucagon is released when the blood glucose is low, why do the diabetics experience hypoglycemia? Shouldn't the glucagon be released and increase the blood sugar?

Note that in Role of Alpha Cells in Diabetes1, the following is stated:

Glucagon responses to hypoglycemia have been known to be blunted in type 1 diabetes of long duration, and this may be a result of a loss of alpha- and beta-cell communication secondary to insulin deficiency.

  1. Rudy W Bilous. Role of Alpha Cells in Diabetes - Medscape - Apr 11, 2003.

1 Answer 1


Key to this question is that untreated, type 1 diabetics would never have hypoglycemia. It is insulin treatment that causes the hypoglycemia. Insulin brings sugar down and without insulin (as the case with type 1 diabetics) sugar just goes up. Exogenous insulin will bring sugar down in anyone, diabetic or no. Since Type 1 diabetics use insulin all the time, there is more chance for an accident (hypoglycemia).

Also, some Type 1 diabetics might not compensate against hypoglycemia or correctly perceive that they are hypoglycemic. Reasons for this are laid out in the following article:

From Hypoglycemia in Type 1 Diabetes

Three major defects in this homeostatic response contribute to the high frequency of hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes.

The article summarizes what those are - basically a blunting of normal reactions to hypoglycemia stemming from the disease itself. It then summarizes:

Thus, the glucose counterregulatory defense against hypoglycemia in individuals with diabetes becomes impaired at almost every level and rendered even more defective through intensive insulin therapy


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