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National Diabetes Month: Treating Hypoglycemia

National Diabetes Month: Treating Hypoglycemia

We're a week past Thanksgiving, and most of us have spent that week eating leftovers, many particularly high in carbohydrates. This means a consistently high level of glucose, or blood sugar. For some of us, this state is all too common, and eventually our cells may become resistant to the effects of insulin, which allows for processing glucose, lowering blood sugar levels. This may lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

One of the more common complications from diabetes is hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, which can not only impair functioning, but also be dangerous if left untreated. And in rare cases, hypoglycemia also has other causes. In all cases, low blood sugar is not a disease in the way diabetes is; it is a symptom or indicator of other health problems.

Hypoglycemia Diabetes Treatment Blood Sugar Glucose Monitoring Regulation

Causes of Hypoglycemia

Diabetes and its regulation are the primary causes of hypoglycemia, as too much insulin or diabetes medication can cause a precipitous drop in blood sugar. This can also occur if you exercise more often than usual or eat less than usual following taking a diabetes medication. Eating later than usual, missing meals or snacks, or eating meals with many simple sugars can also prompt a hypoglycemic episode.

Other causes of hypoglycemia are rarer, and may include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Some serious illnesses: Kidney disorders, as well as liver diseases like hepatitis, can affect glucose production and regulation.
  • Other medications: This is especially pronounced in those with kidney disorders or failure.
  • Long-term starvation.
  • Hormone deficiencies: Disorders of the adrenal glands or pituitary gland, or deficiency of growth hormone in children, can cause a lack of glucose regulating hormones.
  • Insulin overproduction: This can be caused by tumors of the pancreas, or excessive production of pancreatic beta cells.
  • Reactive or postprandial hypoglycemia: An overproduction of insulin following meals; most common in those who have had stomach surgery.

These conditions are rare, and after taking care of the immediate effects of low blood sugar, the important thing to remember is that it's a symptom of something potentially more serious. Always speak to a doctor following a hypoglycemic event.

Hypoglycemia Diabetes Treatment Blood Sugar Glucose Monitoring Regulation

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

The symptoms of low blood sugar are very noticeable, but some, particularly its earlier effects, can be shared with other conditions. Notably some of them are not dissimilar from anxiety attacks. They can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Crying out during sleep
  • Hunger
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Irritability
  • Paleness
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Tinging sensations, especially around the mouth

Worse symptoms of hypoglycemia may include:

  • Appearance of intoxication: slurred words and clumsy movements.
  • Blurred vision and other visual disturbances
  • Confusion or unusual behavior such as an inability to complete routine tasks
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you suspect you are experiencing a hypoglycemic episode, get treatment immediately. Unchecked, low blood sugar levels can lead to seizures and unconsciousness, which can cause falls, motor vehicle accidents, and potentially death.

After an episode, always speak to a doctor. Repeated hypoglycemic episodes can lead to hypoglycemia unawareness, where the body stops giving physical signs of low blood sugar. This is extremely dangerous.

Hypoglycemia Diabetes Treatment Blood Sugar Glucose Monitoring Regulation

 

Treating Hypoglycemia

As most cases of hypoglycemia are connected to diabetes, it's important to follow the diabetes management plan you have developed with your doctor. However, any changes in this plan can provoke low blood sugar episodes. New exercise plans, new medications, or a change in eating or medication schedules

Treating hypoglycemia in the moment is your immediate concern, and your priorities will be balancing your blood sugar level and ensuring you are safe from falls or other accidents. The important number to remember is 70, as in 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL); this is the baseline level below which your blood sugar is too low. To restore your glucose level, you should:

High sugar foods will help in the short term, but foods with proteins and more complex carbohydrates will help maintain glucose levels over a longer period of time, and with more regulation.

 

Hypoglycemia Diabetes Treatment Blood Sugar Glucose Monitoring Regulation

Preventing Hypoglycemia

Treating hypoglycemia is necessary, but even more effective is evaluating and monitoring your habits to prevent it. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Keep a Log: Record hypoglycemic episodes in a log, with relevant time, meal, and medication data included to prevent similar episodes.
  • Glucose Monitoring: Test your blood sugar levels regularly. Record the times and levels, as well as diet and medication data. This will help your doctor refine your meal and medication schedules.
  • Check Your Medications: Make sure you're taking the proper doses of insulin and diabetes medication.
  • Meal Plans: You've probably developed one with your doctor. Make sure you eat three evenly-spaced meals a day and between-meal snacks as prescribed.
  • Even Spacing: Your meals should be no more than 4-5 hours apart.
  • Exercise: After meals, exercise 30-60 minutes, monitoring your glucose level before and after.
  • Self-Identify: Wear an ID bracelet listing you as diabetic.

 

 

Here at Mountainside Medical, we have many products to help prevent and treat hypoglycemic episodes, as well as to manage diabetes. Be sure to check them out at our website by clicking here, or by calling us at 1-888-687-4334 for more information!  

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