Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by low blood sugar levels, typically defined as a blood glucose level below 70 mg/dL. It can occur in people with diabetes who take insulin or certain other medications that lower blood sugar.
How does Hypoglycemia Occur?
Hypoglycemia occurs when the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood drops below normal levels. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells, and the body maintains a tight balance of glucose levels in the blood to ensure that the cells receive a constant supply of energy.
Hypoglycemia can occur for several reasons, including:
- Diabetes medication: Hypoglycemia is a common side effect of medications used to treat diabetes, such as insulin and certain oral medications. These medications work by lowering blood glucose levels, but if too much medication is taken, blood sugar levels can drop too low.
- Delayed or missed meals: Skipping meals or delaying meals can cause blood sugar levels to drop, especially if you have diabetes or are taking medications that lower blood sugar.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Drinking alcohol can cause hypoglycemia, especially if you haven’t eaten or if you’re taking medications that lower blood sugar.
- Other medical conditions: Hypoglycemia can occur in people without diabetes due to other medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, hormonal imbalances, or certain cancers.
- Inadequate nutrition: A diet that is low in carbohydrates or calories can cause hypoglycemia, especially if you have diabetes or are taking medications that lower blood sugar.
It’s important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of hypoglycemia and to develop a treatment plan to prevent future episodes (Regenerate response)
How is Hypoglycemia Treated?
The treatment of hypoglycemia depends on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying cause of low blood sugar. In people with diabetes, hypoglycemia is often treated by consuming a fast-acting carbohydrate source, such as glucose tablets, juice, soda, or candy. The goal is to raise blood sugar levels quickly to prevent further symptoms.
For mild hypoglycemia, consuming 15-20 grams of glucose or a simple carbohydrate source (like crackers) is usually sufficient to raise blood sugar levels back to normal. It’s important to recheck blood sugar levels after 15 minutes to make sure they have returned to normal.
For severe hypoglycemia, especially if the person is unable to eat or drink, emergency treatment may be necessary. This may involve the use of glucagon injections, which can raise blood sugar levels quickly, or hospitalization for intravenous (IV) glucose administration.
In addition to treating hypoglycemia as it occurs, it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to prevent future episodes. This may involve adjusting medication dosages, changing the timing of meals or medication, or making other lifestyle modifications to help stabilize blood sugar levels.
How Do You Know If You Have Hypoglycemia
The symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary depending on how low your blood sugar levels are and how quickly they drop. In people with diabetes, hypoglycemia is usually diagnosed based on a blood glucose reading below 70 mg/dL and the presence of symptoms.
Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Shakiness or tremors
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Hunger or nausea
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or difficulty concentrating
- Weakness or fatigue
- Irritability or mood changes
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Pale skin
Severe hypoglycemia can cause loss of consciousness or seizures, and may require emergency medical attention.
If you experience symptoms of hypoglycemia, it’s important to check your blood sugar levels using a glucose meter, if possible. If your blood sugar level is below 70 mg/dL and you have symptoms of hypoglycemia, you should treat it immediately by consuming a fast-acting carbohydrate source, such as glucose tablets, juice, or candy, as discussed in the previous answer. It’s also important to talk to your healthcare provider if you experience frequent episodes of hypoglycemia, as this may indicate that your diabetes treatment plan needs to be adjusted.