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Low Blood Sugar: Treating Hypocglycemia

Low Blood Sugar: Treating Hypocglycemia

Diabetes is an all too common disease among Americans today. There a number of reasons for what causes Diabetes, and we often hear of the complications from high glucose - or high blood sugar. But, what about low blood sugar

One of the more common complications from Diabetes is called hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia can impair functioning and can be dangerous if left untreated. In rare cases, low blood sugar can also have other health complications and causes.

One surprising fact is that low blood sugar isn't a disease, instead it is usually an indicator of other health problems.


What are the Causes of Hypoglycemia?

The primary cause of hypoglycemia is diabetes. Too much insulin or too much diabetes medication can cause a dangerously low drop in blood sugar. This can also occur if you exercise too frequently or eat less than usual after taking your diabetic medication. Eating later than usual, missing meals or snacks, or eating meals with too much sugar can also cause hypoglycemia.

Though rare, there are other causes of low blood sugar, and they include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Kidney disorders
  • Liver diseases, such as hepatitis
  • Medications to treat other illnesses, such as those for kidney diseases or kidney failure
  • Long term starvation
  • Hormone deficiencies, such as those disorders of the adrenal or pituitary glands, or deficiency of growth hormones in children can also cause a lack of glucose regulating hormones
  • Insulin overproduction, usually caused by pancreatic tumors or excessive production of pancreatic beta cells
  • Reactive or postprandial hypoglycemia, which is most common in those who have had stomach surgery   

It is important to remember that though these conditions are rare, if you have frequent occurrences of low blood sugar, that may be an indication of something potentially more serious. Always consult with a doctor following a hypoglycemic episode. 

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Symptoms of low blood sugar are noticeable, and at times, can mimic symptoms similar to anxiety or panic attacks. They include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Hunger
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Paleness
  • Numbing sensations, especially around the mouth
  • Crying out during sleep

More severe symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Appearance of intoxication: slurred words and clumsy movements
  • Blurry vision and other visual disturbances
  • Confusion or inability to complete routine and normal tasks
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma

If you suspect that you are experiencing a hypoglycemic episode, seek medical attention immediately. Left unchecked, low blood sugar levels can lead to seizures, unconsciousness, and potentially death. 

Keep in mind that after an hypoglycemic episode, always speak with a doctor. Repeated episodes of low blood sugar can lead to hypoglycemia unawareness - where the body stops giving physical signs of low blood sugar. This too is extremely dangerous. 

How to Treat Hypoglycemia

Since most cases of hypoglycemia are related to Diabetes, it's extremely important to follow the diabetes management plan that you have set up with your doctor. Any change in this plan can provoke low blood sugar, such as new exercise routines, medications, or change in eating habits or medication schedules. Always consult with your doctor before making any change to a diabetic management plan. 

If you have a blood glucose monitor, you will want to remember that if you see the number 70, that means your blood sugar is too low. You will want to bring it up and restore your glucose levels. To do so, you should:

Eat or drink something with a high sugar content: Orange juice, apple juice, grape juice, regular soda, a piece of candy, a cookie, anything that has a high sugar content will be your focus. Drinking something with a high sugar content will usually absorb faster into your bloodstream than food will. 

Utilize a glucose paste or glucose gel, or even glucose tablets: as they will help to bring your sugar up even quicker. 

If needed, take a glucose injection or an IV drip: These will typically be administered in an hospital setting.

Remember to always monitor your glucose levels after eating and drinking to be sure that you reached 70mg/dL. Also, while high sugared foods will help in the short term, foods with proteins and more complex carbs will help to maintain glucose levels over a longer period of time. 

Preventing Hypoglycemia

1. Keep a log: Record hypoglycemic episodes in a log or diabetic journal, with relevant time, meal, and medication data included to present to your doctor and to prevent similar episodes. 

2. Glucose monitoringTesting your blood sugar levels regularly will help you determine your high and low periods. Record the times and levels of your glucose, as well as diet and medication data. You should always present this information to your doctor.

3. Check your medicines: to make sure you're taking the correct doses of insulin and/or diabetes medicine.

4. Space meals apart: Be sure to evenly space your meals apart. They should be no more than 4 to 5 hours apart.

5. Exercise: After eating your meals, exercise for 30-60 minutes, monitoring your blood sugar before and after. 

6. Self-ID: You should always wear an ID bracelet that lists any medical problems that you have, including diabetes. 


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