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How To Check Low Blood Sugar


When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider About My Blood Sugar Level

QUICK TIP #1| How to check low blood sugar with Amy Wilcoxon

Proper blood sugar ranges are different for each person and can change throughout the day. Your healthcare provider will tell you what your range should be. Call your healthcare provider if one of the following occurs:

  • Your blood sugar test results are higher than usual for more than 2 days for an unknown reason.
  • Your blood sugar level is low more than 2 times a week.

Can I Check My Own Blood Sugar

You can do blood sugar level check by doing a finger-prick test, by using a blood sugar monitor called a flash glucose monitor or with a continuous glucose monitor . You can do this several times a day helping you keep an eye on your levels as you go about your life and help you work out what to eat and how much medication to take. Find out your ideal target range.

Not everyone with diabetes needs to check their levels like this. Youll need to if you take certain diabetes medication. Always talk to your healthcare team if youre not sure whether thats you theyll give you advice on whether to check them yourself and how often.

And theres also something called an HbA1c, which is a blood test to measure your average blood sugar level over the last three months. Everyone with diabetes is entitled to this check.


High blood sugar levels increase your risk of developing serious complications. However you manage your diabetes, stay in the know about your blood sugar levels

How Can I Prevent Hypoglycemic Episodes

The key to preventing hypoglycemic events is managing diabetes:

  • Follow your healthcare providers instructions about food and exercise.
  • Track your blood sugar regularly, including before and after meals, before and after exercise and before bed.
  • Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
  • When you do have a hypoglycemic event, write it down. Include details such as the time, what you ate recently, whether you exercised, the symptoms and your glucose level.

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How To Treat A Low Blood Sugar Level Yourself

Follow these steps if your blood sugar level is less than 3.5mmol/L or you have hypo symptoms:

  • Have a sugary drink or snack like a small glass of fizzy drink or fruit juice, 4 to 5 jelly babies, 3 to 6 glucose tablets or 1 to 2 tubes of glucose gel.
  • Test your blood sugar after 10 minutes if it’s improved and you feel better, move on to step 3. If there’s little or no change, treat again with a sugary drink or snack and take another reading after 10 to 15 minutes.
  • You may need to eat your main meal if it’s the right time to have it. Or, have a snack that contains a slow-release carbohydrate, such as a slice of bread or toast, a couple of biscuits, or a glass of cows’ milk.
  • You do not usually need to get medical help once you’re feeling better if you only have a few hypos.


    But tell your diabetes team if you keep having hypos or if you stop having symptoms when your blood sugar level is low.

    What Do My Results Mean

    how to manage high blood sugar level

    When you finish the blood sugar check, write down your results and note what factors may have affected them, such as food, activity, and stress. Take a close look at your blood glucose record to see if your level is too high or too low several days in a row at about the same time. If the same thing keeps happening, it might be time to change your diabetes care plan. Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to learn what your results mean for you. It can take time to make adjustments and get things just right. And do ask your doctor if you should report results out of a certain range right away by phone.

    Keep in mind that blood glucose results often trigger strong feelings. Blood sugar numbers can leave you upset, confused, frustrated, angry, or down. It’s easy to use the numbers to judge yourself. Remind yourself that tracking your blood sugar level is simply a way to know how well your diabetes care plan is working, and whether that plan may need to change.

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    Know Your Blood Sugar

    Blood sugar is the amount of sugar in your blood at a given time. It’s important to check your blood sugar level, because it will:


    • determine if you have a high or low blood sugar level at a given time
    • show you how your lifestyle and medication affect your blood sugar levels
    • help you and your diabetes health-care team make lifestyle and medication changes to improve your blood sugar levels

    Why Do I Have To Monitor My Blood Sugar

    Monitoring your blood sugar is the best way to find out how well your diabetes is being controlled, and gives you information on how to manage your diabetes on a daily basis. If your blood sugar is too low or too high, your healthcare provider might want to adjust your diet, exercise schedule, or the amount of medicine you are taking.

    Many things, such as food, physical activity, medication and stress, can affect your blood sugar. The following can raise it:

    • Eating too much
    • Not taking your diabetes medication
    • Illness, surgery, or stress

    These things can lower your blood sugar:

    • Missing meals, or just not eating very much
    • Taking too much diabetes medication
    • Drinking alcohol without eating
    • Too much activity

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    When Blood Sugar Is Too Low

    Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat, and it’s also formed and stored inside the body. It’s the main source of energy for the cells of our body, and is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Our brains depend on glucose to function, even when we’re sleeping.


    The is the amount of glucose in the blood. When these levels drop too low, it’s called hypoglycemia . Very low blood sugar levels can cause serious symptoms that need to be treated right away.

    Low Blood Sugar Levels In Diabetes

    How To Treat Low Blood Sugar

    People with diabetes can have low blood sugar levels because of the medicines they have to take to manage their diabetes. They may need a hormone called or diabetes pills to help their bodies use the sugar in their blood.

    These medicines help take the sugar out of the blood and get it into the body’s cells, which makes the blood sugar level go down. But sometimes it’s a tricky balancing act and blood sugar levels can get too low.

    People with diabetes need to keep their blood sugars from getting too highor too low. Keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range means balancing when and what they eat, and when they exercise with when they take medicines.

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    When Should I See A Doctor

    “To diagnose hypoglycemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health and any medicines you take,” advises University of Michigan Health. “You will need blood tests to check your blood sugar levels. Some tests might include not eating and watching for symptoms. Other tests might involve eating a meal that could cause symptoms of low blood sugar several hours later. The results of these types of tests can help diagnose the cause. You may also need tests to look for or rule out health problems that could be affecting your blood sugar levels.”

    The Best Time To Check Blood Sugar

    Kathi Valeii is a freelance writer covering the intersections of health, parenting, and social justice.

    Living with diabetes includes monitoring your blood sugar levels. Most people do this by pricking their fingers with a blood sugar meter , which measures sugar in a small amount of blood.

    Some people use a continuous glucose monitor , a sensor under the skin that checks blood sugar every few minutes. People who use a CGM must also use a blood sugar meter daily to ensure their CGM is accurate.

    When you have diabetes, monitoring blood sugar levels is crucial because keeping blood sugar in a target range can help prevent complications, including:


    When you check your blood sugar matters. There are several times throughout the day that health experts recommend checking your blood sugar.

    This article explains the importance of monitoring your blood sugar, how blood sugar is measured, and how to check it.

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    The #1 Sign Of Low Blood Sugar

    Elevated heart rate and palpitations are the most common signs of low blood sugar. “When blood sugar levels fall below their usual values, the body elicits a hormonal response to try to bring those blood sugar levels back up to normal,” says John Clore, M.D., Diabetologist, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. “Those same hormonal responses also lead to a number of symptoms. Those symptoms include palpitations, rapid heart rate, nervousness, and sweating. For some individuals, the sweating predominates. For other individuals, it’s the rapid heart rate and palpitations, but what distinguishes hypoglycemia and the symptoms associated with hypoglycemia from those same symptoms by other causes, is that when you take carbohydrate to bring blood sugar levels back up, the symptoms resolve.”

    Normal Blood Sugar Levels In Children

    When Should I Check My Blood Sugar Levels?

    Younger than 6 years old mg/dL


    Bedtime100-140

    Adults who are 20 years or older will have blood sugar levels that range between less than 100-180 mg/dL over the course of a day. When you wake up in the morning, your fasting blood sugar should be at its lowest because you havent consumed food for about eight hours. If youre an adult and struggling with glucose control, your healthcare provider can help you develop a treatment plan to manage your blood sugar better.

    Blood glucose levels outside the ranges listed above are categorized as either high or low blood sugar. Blood sugar levels are considered high if theyre over 130 mg/dL before a meal or 180 mg/dL within one to two hours after a meal. Many people wont start to experience symptoms from high blood sugar until their levels are at 250 mg/dL or higher. The highest blood sugar level thats considered safe will depend on the person and whether they have diabetes, but will typically be between 160 to 240 mg/dL.

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    Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar

    How you react to low blood sugar may not be the same as how someone else with low blood sugar reacts. Its important to know your signs. Common symptoms may include:

    • Fast heartbeat
    • Hunger

    If youve had low blood sugar without feeling or noticing symptoms , you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low and treat it. Driving with low blood sugar can be dangerous, so be sure to check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel.


    You may not have any symptoms when your blood sugar is low . If you dont have symptoms, it will be harder to treat your low blood sugar early. This increases your risk of having severe lows and can be dangerous. This is more likely to happen if you:

    • Have had diabetes for more than 5-10 years.
    • Frequently have low blood sugar.
    • Take certain medicines, such as beta blockers for high blood pressure.

    If you meet one or more of the above and you have hypoglycemia unawareness, you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low. This is very important to do before driving or being physically active.

    After You Have Low Blood Sugar

    If your low blood sugar was mild , you can return to your normal activities once your blood sugar is back in its target range.

    After you have low blood sugar, your early symptoms for low blood sugar are less noticeable for 48 to 72 hours. Be sure to check your blood sugar more often to keep it from getting too low again, especially before eating, physical activity, or driving a car.

    If you used glucagon because of a severe low , immediately call your doctor for emergency medical treatment. If you have had lows several times close together , you should also tell you doctor. They may want to change your diabetes plan.


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    Other Tips For Checking:

    • With some meters, you can also use your forearm, thigh, or fleshy part of your hand.
    • There are spring-loaded lancing devices that make sticking yourself less painful.
    • If you use your fingertip, stick the side of your fingertip by your fingernail to avoid having sore spots on the frequently used part of your finger.

    What Additional Tests Might Be Recommended In A Pet With Hypoglycemia

    How to Test Your Blood Sugar

    There are several additional tests that might be recommended depending on the results of a pet’s history, physical examination, and screening tests.

    Examples of more advanced tests would include:

    • Serum bile acid testing. If either liver disease or a portosystemic shunt is suspected then measurement of serum bile acids would be recommended.
    • X-rays and ultrasound. These imaging studies would be used to assess the liver and other abdominal organs, especially if liver disease, insulinoma, or other tumors are suspected.
    • Biopsy followed by microscopic examination would be recommended if a tumor or abnormal organ is found on imaging. The biopsy might be collected by fine needle aspiration, ultrasound-guided biopsy, or surgical intra-operative biopsy.
    • ACTH stimulation test would be recommended if Addison’s disease is suspected.
    • Blood culture would be recommended if widespread bacterial infection is suspected. Blood culture confirms the presence of bacteria in the blood stream and determines which antibiotic should to used treat the infection.
    • Blood insulin:glucose ratio. The simultaneous measurement of blood insulin and blood glucose levels may help to confirm the presence of an insulinoma. Finding too much insulin in the blood of an animal that is truly hypoglycemic is strong evidence of underlying insulinoma. Typically, imaging studies and possibly biopsy would be recommended to confirm the diagnosis.

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    Present & Future Testing Parameters

    What is the Glucose Tolerance Test?

    So, you think you may have hypoglycemia. You have all the symptoms. After discussing it with your physician, he agrees to give you a glucose tolerance test to confirm the diagnosis. A test for three or four hours is requested when diabetes is suspected, but a six-hour glucose tolerance test is, by far, the most reliable method to detect low blood sugar. The HSF has always recommended that you settle for nothing less than the six-hour GTT. However, for a different perspective please see the section titled Ask The Experts below for Dr. Bairds response to the question of whether a patient should take a glucose tolerance test to confirm hypoglycemia.


    In conclusion, if youve read the basic facts about the glucose tolerance test, discussed it thoroughly with your physician and both of you have decided that this test is necessary, then read some of our suggested dos and donts.

    DOS

    DONTS

    Glucose Control Parameters + Insulin Levels

    This gets technical again, rely on your own healthcare provider for advice. However, this information may be useful to some healthcare professionals.

    Ultimately, these tests and their analysis should be left to your physician. But you should know what they mean, as they are important for gauging your health. Unfortunately, some doctors are reluctant to order such tests, especially as a preventative measure.

    New Tech + Old School

    Empower Yourself!

    How To Use Blood Glucose Testing Results

    It’s not unusual for your blood glucose results to be out of range now and then. But if you see a pattern of highs or lows outside your target range, you may want to ask yourself:

    • Did I eat at an unusual time, have a larger or smaller portion, or try a new food?
    • Did I have more or less physical activity than usual?
    • Did I forget to take my medication, take it at the wrong time, take too little or too much?
    • Am I taking a new medication?
    • Am I stressed about something?
    • Do I have an infection or an illness?
    • Did I drink alcohol?

    Any of these can have an impact on your blood glucose numbers. If you’re making changes to your lifestyle, or if you can’t figure out why you’ve been out of range, talk to your doctor, nurse or diabetes educator.


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    1American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes2016 Abridged for primary care providers . Diabetes Care. 2016 34: 3-21. Available at: . Accessed April 26, 2019.

    2Polonsky WH, et al. Structured self-monitoring of blood glucose significantly reduces A1C levels in poorly controlled, noninsulin-treated type 2 diabetes: results from the Structured Testing Program study. Diabetes Care. 2011 34:262-267. Accessed April 26, 2019.

    4Talk with your healthcare professional before deciding if alternate site testing is right for you.

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    What Causes A Low Blood Sugar Level

    In people with diabetes, the main causes of a low blood sugar level are:


    • the effects of medicine especially taking too much insulin, medicines called sulfonylureas , medicines called glinides , or some antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C
    • skipping or delaying a meal
    • not eating enough carbohydrate foods in your last meal, such as bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes and fruit
    • exercise, especially if it’s intense or unplanned
    • drinking alcohol

    Sometimes there’s no obvious reason why a low blood sugar level happens.

    Very occasionally, it can happen in people who do not have diabetes.

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