Know the basics
What is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar, occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels. Glucose, an important source of energy for the body, comes from food. Carbohydrates are the main dietary source of glucose. Rice, potatoes, bread, tortillas, cereal, milk, fruit, and sweets are all carbohydrate-rich foods.
The pancreas has a key role in blood sugar control. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the cells use glucose for energy and lower blood glucose level.
One other hormones also play a role in controlling blood glucose level is glucagon, which can higher blood glucose level. When the pancreas does not produce enough glucagon, blood sugar will drop and cause hypoglycemia.
How common is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is not common in adults and children over 10 years old. The disease is common in diabetic patients being treated with insulin or treat diabetes without your doctor instruction. Hypoglycemia may be a side effect of the treatment of other diseases, hormone deficiency or tumors in the body.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?
Symptoms of Hypoglycemia include shakiness, dizziness, headache, frequent sweating, hunger, rapid heartbeats, and pale skin color. Hypoglycemia can also happen during sleep and may make you crying out or having nightmares. Because sugar provides energy to the body so people with hypoglycemia often feel tired and uncomfortable. A sudden drop in blood sugar will cause fainting or seizures.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Hypoglycemia usually occurs quickly and does not develop in the long time. You should see your doctor immediately if:
- You have what may be symptoms of hypoglycemia and you do not have diabetes.
- You have diabetes and have dizziness or fainting due to hypoglycemia
- You have diabetes and hypoglycemia is not responding to treatment.
You should let relatives know about your diabetes and the risk of hypoglycemia for possible emergency if severe hypoglycemia causes loss of consciousness or seizures.
Know the causes
What causes hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia occurs when insulin and glucose are not in balance. The causes of this hormonal imbalance may be:
- Taking too much insulin or another diabetes medicine
- Not eating enough or waiting too long between meals (such as overnight).
- Exercising without having eaten enough
- Not eating enough carbohydrates
- Improper diet
- Drinking too much alcohol
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for hypoglycemia?
Certain factors may increase your risk of developing Hypoglycemia:
- Having diabetes and taking medication for diabetes.
- Alcohol abuse.
- Treating hepatitis or kidney disease.
- A lump increases insulin secretion.
- Have endocrine disorders such as hypopituitarism, Addison’s disease.
Not having risk factors does not mean you cannot get hamstring strains. These factors are for reference only. You should consult your doctor for more details.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?
Symptoms are the best way to tell whether hypoglycemia is occurring. If you are at hospital, your doctor may order fasting blood sugar tests and other blood tests to determine if you have hypoglycemia.
How is hypoglycemia treated?
To return the balance between insulin and glucose to normal during an episode of hypoglycemia, sugar should be supply to your body quickly by:
- Glucose tablets
- Fruit juice
After about 15 to 20 minutes, if the level is not normal, another snack should be eaten and blood sugar level checked again 15 to 20 minutes later.
If you lose your consciousness or seizures occurs due to hypoglycemia, you need to be given a shot of glucagon immediately.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hypoglycemia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hypoglycemia:
- Eat regular, well-balanced meals with the amount of carbohydrates that your doctor or dietitian approved. Eat enough carbohydrate before exercise and snack during exercise if needed
- Eat snacks as soon as your sugar level is too low or you get symptoms
- Explain to people with whom you live and work that you have diabetes and how to inject glucagon if you lose consciousness
- Check your blood sugar level according to the schedule that your doctor gave you.
- Do not ignore symptoms of hypoglycemia or put off treating hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can lead to coma and brain damage.
- Do not become discourage if you have type 1 diabetes and it takes time to adjust your insulin dose to allow exercise.
- Re-examine punctually to keep track on the disease’s progress and your health condition.
- Follow doctor’s instruction, do not use or stop using medicines by yourself.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Page 197
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Print edition. Page 1014
Hypoglycemia. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/hypoglycemia/Pages/index.aspx. Accessed July 14, 2016.