What Is Low Blood Sugar And Why Is It Scary
Low blood sugar can feel different for different people, both when it comes to when we feel low and how the symptoms manifest.
In a non-diabetic body, blood sugar levels rarely dip below 70 mg/dL, but if you manage your diabetes with insulin and if too much insulin is present in the body, blood sugars start to drop below normal levels.
Without enough glucose in your bloodstream, your brain and entire body will struggle to function and most people will start feeling the symptoms of low blood sugar.
If not treated with glucose, blood sugar can continue to drop, which can lead to a severe low blood sugar. A severe low blood sugar is defined as a situation where your blood sugar is so low that you need help from someone else to get your blood sugar back into a safe range.
How Is Hypoglycemia Treated
Your doctor will need to identify the cause of your hypoglycemia to determine the right long-term therapy for you.
Glucose will help boost your blood sugar levels in the short term. One way to get additional glucose is to consume 15 grams of carbohydrates. Orange juice or another fruit juice is an easy way to get extra glucose into your bloodstream. These sources of glucose often briefly correct hypoglycemia, but then another drop in blood sugar often follows. Eat foods that are high in high complex carbohydrates, such as pasta and whole grains, to sustain your blood sugar levels after a period of hypoglycemia.
The symptoms of hypoglycemia can become so severe for some people that they interfere with daily routines and activities. If you have severe hypoglycemia, you might need to carry glucose tablets or injectable glucose.
Does Everyone Have Symptoms From Hypoglycemia
Some people dont have symptoms or dont notice them. Healthcare providers call that situation hypoglycemia unawareness. People with such a challenge arent aware when they need to do something about their blood sugar. Theyre then more likely to have severe episodes and need medical help. People with hypoglycemia unawareness should check their blood sugar more often.
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What Extreme Conditions Can Occur If Hypoglycemia Is Left Untreated
Although severe episodes which can trigger potentially life-threatening comas are rare, they require immediate emergency room care, so its best to make sure you are tracking your blood sugar so that you never have to worry about getting to that point. A drop in blood sugar means less fuel for your brain, so its critical for your body to receive enough glucose. Hypoglycemia that leads to extended, reduced brain function is the biggest concern, as this can lead to seizures and loss of basic bodily functions controlled by the brain, which can ultimately lead to death, explains Dr. Dyer.
Treating Mild To Moderate Hypoglycemia
If you start feeling any of the symptoms listed above, check your blood sugar as soon as possible, then follow the chart below to treat low blood sugar. If you have any concerns, or cant test immediately, its best to treat first and check when possible.
If your blood sugar is ;
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What Symptoms To Watch For
There are several common symptoms associated with low blood sugar. These symptoms arise due to the adrenal glands releasing both epinephrine and cortisol in response to hypoglycemia.
However, not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and low blood sugar reactions can change. If you suspect you have low blood sugar, the best thing to do is check your blood sugar to confirm.
People who have had diabetes for a long time or who have experienced hypoglycemia frequently may develop;hypoglycemia unawareness.
Hypoglycemia unawareness is a diabetes complication where people dont experience the usual warning signs of low blood sugar before it occurs. Up to 40% of people with type 1 diabetes experience hypoglycemia unawareness.
When To See A Doctor
Early warning signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
If you are experiencing these symptoms and suspect they could be related to your medications, reach out to your provider to see if an adjustment is needed. If you believe your symptoms are from poor food intake, try consuming complex carbohydrates more consistently to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Doing an intense workout on an empty stomach can produce hypoglycemia thats easy to fix. In this case, you can treat hypoglycemia at home with a sports drink or snack, and no further medical help is needed.
When left untreated, severe hypoglycemia can lead to intense symptoms, like jerky movements, inability to eat or drink, muscle weakness, slurred speech, blurry or double vision, seizures, or unconsciousness. For any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare professional immediately.
Since hypoglycemia can cause you to pass out, you should alert the people who you spend time with about your condition so they know what to do in an emergency. Let your coworkers, family, and friends know when they should call 911. You can also wear a medical alert bracelet that notifies others of your health concerns.
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Hypoglycemia In Children: Pediatric Ketotic Hypoglycemia
Some children experience pediatric ketotic hypoglycemia, involving low blood sugar levels and high levels of a substance known as ketones.
Doctors do not know exactly why this happens, but causes may include:
- metabolism problems that the child was born
- conditions that lead to excess production of certain hormones
Symptoms usually appear after the age of 6 months and disappear before adolescence.
- mood changes
- clumsy or jerky movements
If a child shows any of the above signs or symptoms, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
What Is Blood Glucose Monitoring
People use blood glucose monitoring to regularly test glucose levels in the blood.
It is an essential part of effective diabetes control. Many people with diabetes must check several times each day to plan for activities and meals, as well as scheduling doses of medication or insulin.
A person can test their blood glucose levels with a glucometer. They usually come with lancets, or tiny needles, a logbook to record results, and test strips.
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Overdose Of Diabetes Medication
A common cause of hypoglycaemia is taking too much insulin for your current needs. Insulin is a medication that helps control your blood glucose levels. It’s commonly used to treat;type 1 diabetes;and is also recommended for some;people with;type 2 diabetes.
A fall in blood;glucose levels can also occur after taking too much oral hypoglycaemia medication, such as sulphonylurea, which causes a release of insulin. This medication is often used;to lower blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Can You Prevent Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia might sound a little scary, so you might wonder if you can avoid it. No matter how well they take care of themselves, kids with diabetes will sometimes have low blood sugar levels. But taking these steps can help:
- Try to eat all your meals and snacks on time and don’t skip any.
- Take the right amount of insulin.
- If you exercise longer or harder than usual, have an extra snack.
- Don’t take a hot bath or shower right after an insulin shot.
- Stick to your diabetes management plan.
What else can you do? Wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace that says you have diabetes. Then, if you are not feeling well, whoever’s helping you even if the person doesn’t know you will know to call for medical help. Medical identification also can include your doctor’s phone number or a parent’s phone number. The quicker you get help, the quicker you’ll be feeling better.
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Treating Low Blood Glucose If You Take Medicines That Slow Down Digestion
Some diabetes medicines slow down the digestion of carbohydrates to keep blood glucose levels from rising too high after you eat. If you develop low blood glucose while taking these medicines, you will need to take glucose tablets or glucose gel right away. Eating or drinking other sources of carbohydrates wont raise your blood glucose level quickly enough.
Stages Of Low Blood Sugar
You will notice certain signs when your blood sugar begins to drop. These signs arise in stages, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Each stage is characterized by a specific set of symptoms.
Nausea is one of the signs that occur in the mild stage, but it can also be present in later stages. Many organizations like the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases combine the mild and moderate stages into one.
Other signs of mild to moderate low blood sugar;include:
- Blurred vision
Signs of severe low blood sugar;include:
- Unable to eat or drink
- Seizures or convulsions
Symptoms of hypoglycemia during sleep;include:
- Crying out or having nightmares
- Sweating enough to make your pajamas or sheets damp
- Feeling tired, irritable, or confused after waking up
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What Should Be The Diet For A Person With Nondiabetic Hypoglycemia
If you suffer from episodes of hypoglycemia without even having diabetes, you will need to carry a pack of sugar candies or biscuits wherever you go. Ask your doctor or dietician about what your diet should be, which can help you prevent hypoglycemic episodes. The following may help you avoid episodes of hypoglycemia:
- Eat frequent, small meals each day instead of three large meals
- Do not skip meals
- Cut back on refined carbohydrates
- Have a well-balanced diet that is rich in proteins, contains carbohydrates, fat , fruits, and vegetables
- Limit alcohol or drink it along with meals or after meals
How To Help Others Help You
Knowing the signs of low blood sugar, having an action plan, and being prepared with your glucose meter and glucose tablets are vital, but sometimes you might need to rely on other people to help when youre blood sugar drops too low. Take these additional steps so youre prepared and they are, too:
Teach your loved ones.;If youre unable to help yourself, friends, family, or colleagues may need to treat you with an injection of glucagon, a hormone that tells your liver to release stored glucose, the American Diabetes Association says. For this reason, its a good idea to teach those close to you what to do. If they dont know how to give you the injection or if glucagon isnt available, they must call 911 and get you the help you need, Evans says. Low blood sugar thats sustained for a prolonged time can lead to irreversible brain damage, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Wear an ID bracelet.;Evan suggests that everyone with;diabetes;should get a tattoo or wear a medical ID bracelet. The bracelet should say diabetes and whether youre on;insulin;or take other medications, the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston recommends.
Talk to your doctor about your low blood sugar risk.;If you have frequent bouts of hypoglycemia, be sure to talk with your doctor. The solution may be as simple as changing how much or the kind of diabetes medicine you take. However,;never make any changes to your medication regimen;without your doctors approval.
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How To Use A Glucose Meter
Glucometers are easy to use. Take the following steps to successfully test blood glucose:
People with type 2 diabetes normally need to test blood sugar concentrations at least once each day.
Those who need to take insulin, which includes all people with type 1 diabetes and some with type 2, have to test their blood several times a day.
An accurate reading of the blood glucose level can help achieve good diabetes control.
What Should I Do If I Experience A Hypoglycemia
Low blood sugar can be treated quickly with fast-acting glucose. If you are at risk for lows, you should always have something fast and sweet with you. Glucose tabs, for example, are available at any pharmacy, are relatively affordable, and are designed to digest quickly and raise blood glucose fast.
Other options are fruit juice, regular soda, candies , or other . It is important that whatever you use to treat the low does not contain a lot of fat or fiber, which slows digestion and takes longer to raise blood sugar.
The general guidelines are to eat 15-20 grams of glucose or simple carbohydrates then check your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. If you are still low, repeat.
If you experience low blood sugars often, talk to your doctor. Together, you’ll be able to figure out why they are happening and then make adjustments, so they don’t happen so often.
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What Are Clinical Trials For Low Blood Glucose
Clinical trialsand other types of clinical studiesare part of medical research and involve people like you. When you volunteer to take part in a clinical study, you help doctors and researchers learn more about disease and improve health care for people in the future.
Researchers are studying many aspects of low blood glucose levels in diabetes, such as
- how to diagnose and treat low blood glucose among people with diabetes
- medicines that can treat symptoms of low blood glucose in people with hypoglycemia unawareness
- educational approaches to reduce fear of low blood glucose, which can make it harder for you to control your diabetes
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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What To Do When Your Blood Sugar Levels Drop Too Low
People who use insulin and other diabetes medications are at risk for hypoglycemia. Keep this action plan handy so youâre prepared.
If you take insulin or diabetes medication, you may be at risk of developing hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Without quick attention, hypoglycemia can lead to serious complications, so its important to know what to do if it happens to you or someone close to you.
In very severe cases, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures or loss of consciousness, says;;a clinical assistant professor of medicine, endocrinology, gerontology, and metabolism at Stanford Health Care, and chief of the Stanford Endocrine Clinic.
Itâs possible to have hypoglycemia but have no symptoms, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases . On the other hand, symptoms can also come on rapidly. While symptoms vary from person to person, if you develop mild to moderate low;blood sugar;you may:
- Feel shaky or jittery
- Be irritable or combative
- Have blurred vision or see double
Some people feel tingling or numbness in their extremities too, says Rodolfo Galindo, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of endocrinology, metabolism, and lipids at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and chair of the inpatient diabetes taskforce.
How Common Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose is common among people with type 1 diabetes;and among people with type 2 diabetes;who take insulin;or some other diabetes medicines. In a large global study of people with diabetes who take insulin, 4 in 5 people with type 1 diabetes and nearly half of those with type 2 diabetes reported a low blood sugar event at least once over a 4-week period.2
Severely low blood glucose, defined as when your blood glucose level drops so low you cant treat it yourself, is less common. Among U.S. adults with diabetes who take insulin or some diabetes medicines that help the pancreas;release insulin into the blood, 2 in 100 may develop severely low blood glucose each year.3
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How Do I Treat Low Blood Glucose
If you begin to feel one or more symptoms of low blood glucose, check your blood glucose level. If your blood glucose level is below your target or less than 70 mg/dL, follow these steps