When To Call The Doctor
If signs of low blood sugar do not improve after you have eaten a snack that contains sugar, have someone drive you to the emergency room or call 911 or the local emergency number. Do not drive when your blood sugar is low.
Get medical help right away for a person with low blood sugar if the person is not alert or cannot be woken up as this is a medical emergency.
The Danger Of Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, can become a lot more dangerous more quickly. Hypoglycemia, if left untreated, can quickly result in diabetic coma and death.
Low blood sugars will not lead to permanent complications in most cases but cause frequent, short-term complications in the form of being physically unable to function when experiencing a low. They require fast-acting glucose as treatment.
Symptoms of low blood sugar can hit different people at different times, and some people may not feel their low blood sugars at all , which can be very dangerous.
Continuous glucose monitoring systems and diabetes alert dogs can help people detect their lows earlier, before they become extremely dangerous.
Hypo unawareness occurs in about 40% of people with type 1 diabetes, and less frequently in people with type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, one study showed that the average person with type 1 diabetes experiences two episodes of low blood sugar per week!
Low blood sugars can happen for many reasons, all of which result from too much insulin in the bloodstream and not enough glucose for the body to function properly.
Reasons can be anything from taking too much insulin for food, to accidentally over-bolusing with an insulin pump, to not finishing a meal, to drinking alcohol in excess, or even after physical exertion and exercise while not reducing basal insulin settings appropriately.
Summary Of My Weight Balancing Plan
Good luck balancing your blood sugar! You may miss the initial hit that a cup of coffee or candy bar gives you, but you will have newfound sustained energy and clarity of mind. Balancing our blood sugar, whether it is too high or too low, is one of the most important things we can do for our health and longevity.
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About High Blood Sugar
High glucose levels occur when the body doesn’t have enough insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it has to shuttle glucose from the bloodstream to the bodys muscles, organs, and tissues for fuel, ONeill says. As a result, the amount of sugar in the blood builds up.
Hyperglycemia typically happens when you consume more carbohydrates or bigger portions of food than usual if you don’t take enough insulin or other diabetes medication as prescribed and if you decrease your levels of physical activity, she says. Heightened stress levels can also increase blood sugar levels. Non-diabetes-related medications that are known to raise blood sugar levels include steroids, beta-blockers, birth control pills, and many mental health medications, she explains.
Signs of high blood sugar include frequent urination, fatigue, dry or itchy skin, feeling thirsty, more frequent infections, and eating more food but not gaining as much weight as usual, says Athena Philis-Tsimikas, MD, the corporate vice president for the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute in La Jolla, California.
High blood sugar levels can cause these symptoms through various mechanisms, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example, high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels and nerves throughout the body. They can also deprive organs of energy and can cause fluid to accumulate in the eyes. And in an attempt to get your blood sugar to a healthier level, your body will often increase urine output.
Understanding Blood Sugar Levels
If you are one of 110 million Americans living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, you have probably had at least one conversation with your doctor about lowering your blood sugar levels.
It is, after all, sustained high blood sugar that often leads to diabetes, and it is lowering blood sugar levels which can turn back the clock and lead to remission.
But all this talk of lowering blood sugar begs the question: can your blood sugar levels get too low?
The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes! And low blood sugar can, in fact, be far more dangerous than high blood sugar.
The technical term for low blood sugar is hypoglycemia, which typically occurs when blood sugar levels drop below 70 milligrams per deciliter .
While the only clinical way to know if your blood sugar is too low is to test it, there are also some early warning signs that can also signal to you that it’s time for a sugary snack.
If you do begin to feel any of these symptoms, or you test your blood sugar levels and find them to be under 70ml/dl , it is important to act quickly. If hypoglycemia is left untreated it can cause seizures, a coma, and even death.
We will get into the symptoms in a minute, but first lets discuss the causes.
The three main things which can affect blood sugar are:
Any medication which increases insulin or lowers blood sugar can cause hypoglycemia. Here are a few common ones to be aware of:
- Loss of consciousness
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A Low Blood Sugar Level And Driving
You may still be allowed to drive if you have diabetes or you’re at risk of a low blood sugar level for another reason, but you’ll need to do things to reduce the chance of this happening while you’re driving.
You also need to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and your car insurance company about your condition.
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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.
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How Is Hypoglycemia Treated
When your blood sugar levels are too low, eating carbohydrates is key. If you have diabetes, try to keep high carbohydrate snacks on hand.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that your snack have at least 15 grams of carbohydrates. Some good snacks to keep on hand are:
- jelly beans or gumdrops
- fresh or dried fruit
You also can take glucose tablets to rapidly raise your blood sugar if its low. These are available without a prescription. Its important to check how many grams are in each tablet before taking them. Aim to get 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates.
Wait 15 minutes after eating or taking a glucose tablet and test your blood sugar again. If your blood sugar is not going up, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrates or take another dose of glucose tablets. Repeat this until your blood sugar level starts to rise.
Be sure not to overeat. This could lead to blood sugar levels that are too high.
If your blood sugar remains unresponsive, contact your doctor or emergency services right away. When in doubt, treat.
Symptoms of low blood sugar usually get worse if theyre left untreated. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you have diabetes and experience low blood sugar levels often, or if you have symptoms, even if you dont have diabetes.
How Do You Treat Hypoglycemia
Low blood sugar levels happen when theres too little glucose left in the bloodstream to continue supplying fuel to your organs, muscles, and tissues. It most often occurs when you dont eat enough food, especially carb-containing foods, given your blood-sugar-lowering medications and physical activity levels, ONeill says. Levels can decrease gradually or suddenly.
When the amount of glucose in the bloodstream drops to too-low levels, the body reacts by releasing epinephrine, also called adrenaline or the fight or flight hormone. Epinephrine revs your heart rate and can cause sweating, shaking, anxiety, and irritability. If not enough glucose is able to reach the brain, the result may be difficulty concentrating, confused thinking, and slurred speech. In extreme cases, a lack of glucose within the brain can lead to seizures, coma, and even death, she says.
People with low glucose levels can use the ADAs 15-15 Rule, which advises people consume 15 g of carbs, wait 15 minutes, and check their levels again. If the number is still low, repeat until reaching at least 70 mg/dL.
You can find 15 g of carbs in:
- 1 slice of bread
- 1 small piece of fresh fruit
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S For Treating A Person With Symptoms Keeping Them From Being Able To Treat Themselves
Dont hesitate to call 911. If someone is unconscious and glucagon is not available or someone does not know how to use it, call 911 immediately.
- Provide food or fluids
Low Blood Sugar Signs Can Be Missed
Dr Thangudum shares, “Someone not knowing they have low blood sugar typically occurs in people who have had frequent hypoglycemia due to medications. When a person has experienced frequent hypoglycemia, they develop hypoglycemia unawareness. This means the body doesn’t give them the normal signals clamminess, shaking, sweating, anxiety, hunger of mild hypoglycemia. Thus they can develop a profound hypoglycemic event that presents only with loss of consciousness or death.”
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Examples Of Easily Digestible Carbohydrates
- 1/2 cup of juice or regular soda
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 4 or 5 saltine crackers
- 3 or 4 pieces of hard candy or glucose tablets
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
Very low blood sugar is a medical emergency. If you or someone else with diabetes is experiencing severe symptoms, such as unconsciousness, its important to administer a medication called glucagon and contact emergency services immediately.
If youre at risk for low blood sugar, its important to talk with your doctor about getting a prescription for glucagon.
You should never give an unconscious person anything by mouth, as it could cause them to choke. If you have diabetes, make sure your family and friends know not to do this if you lose consciousness.
Low blood sugar can occur for a number of reasons. Its usually a side effect of diabetes treatment.
Preventing A Low Blood Sugar Level
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of getting a low blood sugar level if you:
- Check your blood sugar level regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar level so you can treat it quickly.
- Use a continuous glucose monitor or flash monitor to see how your blood sugar levels are changing. Ask your diabetes care team about getting a monitor if you do not already have one.
- Always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets. If you have a glucagon injection kit, always keep it with you.
- Do not skip meals.
- Be careful when drinking alcohol. Do not drink large amounts, check your blood sugar level regularly, and eat a carbohydrate snack afterwards.
- Be careful when exercising eating a carbohydrate snack before exercise can help to reduce the risk of a hypo. If you take some types of diabetes medicine, your doctor may recommend you take a lower dose before or after doing intense exercise.
- Have a carbohydrate snack, such as toast, if your blood sugar level drops too low while you’re asleep .
If you keep getting a low blood sugar level, talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it.
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What Causes Low Blood Glucose In People With Diabetes
Low blood glucose levels can be a side effect of insulin or some other medicines that help your pancreas release insulin into your blood. Taking these can lower your blood glucose level.
Two types of diabetes pills can cause low blood glucose
- sulfonylureas, usually taken once or twice per day, which increase insulin over several hours
- meglitinides, taken before meals to promote a short-term increase in insulin
The following may also lower your blood glucose level
Symptoms And Signs Of Hypoglycemia
While healthy adults rarely feel hypoglycemic due to their glucose reserves, there are rare cases where some might suffer from low blood sugar symptoms.
While a blood sugar level lower than 70 mg/dl does not produce any signs of low blood sugar, it is still of primary concern as the responses vary from patient to patient. One patient might suffer from agitation, jitteriness, and sleepiness at 69mg/dl while another might experience the same at 55 mg/dl or lower.
These low blood sugar symptoms include:
- Agitation or nervousness
- Increased sweating leading to soaked clothes or bed-sheets
- Lightheadedness or dizziness patients might refer to this as spinning at times
- Numbness in digits
- Jitteriness, palpitations, trembling, or anxiety due to increased sympathetic activity. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered in response to low blood sugar levels, which prepares the body for a fight or flight situation. This, in turn, releases a hormone called epinephrine which leads to anxiety and an increased heart rate.
- Somnolence or excessive sleeping
- Loss of energy trouble performing simple day-to-day activities
- Muscle weakness
- Inability to speak coherently might stammer
- Unable to recognize surroundings or people
- Seizures or reactive fits
- Unconsciousness or syncope the patient might go into a coma due to chronic low blood sugar levels.
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Low Blood Sugar Facts
- Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar. It typically occurs as a side effect of medications for diabetes.
- The normal range of blood glucose is from 70 to 100 mg/dL in an individual without diabetes,
- Most people will feel the effects and symptoms of low blood sugar when blood glucose levels are lower than 50 mg/dL.
- Severe cases may lead to seizures and loss of consciousness.
- Low blood sugar is treated by giving a readily absorbed source of sugar, including soft drinks, juice, or foods containing sugar.
- If hypoglycemia has progressed to the point at which the patient cannot take anything by mouth, an injection of glucagon may be given. Glucagon is a hormone that causes a fast release of glucose from the liver.
Check Your Blood Sugar Often
Regularly checking your blood sugar level can help you keep it in your target range. If youve had low blood sugar episodes in the past, you may want to check your blood sugar levels before driving or operating machinery.
Talk with your doctor about when and how often you should check your blood sugar.
What If The 15
If you dont feel better after three tries, or if your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider or 911. Healthcare providers can use a medication called glucagon. They inject it with a needle or squirt it up your nose. Glucagon is also available for home use. Your healthcare provider can prescribe it and teach a family member or friend how to use it in the event of severe hypoglycemia.
How Can I Prevent Hypoglycemic Episodes
The key to preventing hypoglycemic events is managing diabetes:
- Follow your healthcare providers instructions about food and exercise.
- Track your blood sugar regularly, including before and after meals, before and after exercise and before bed.
- Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
- When you do have a hypoglycemic event, write it down. Include details such as the time, what you ate recently, whether you exercised, the symptoms and your glucose level.
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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.
What Are The Symptoms Of High Blood Sugar
The symptoms of high blood sugar can vary depending on severity.
Early signs and symptoms of high blood sugar
When your blood sugar is around 200 mg/dL, but not yet dangerously high, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Increased thirst
- Shortness of breath
If you are experiencing any of the later-stage symptoms of high blood sugar, seek immediate medical attention.
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How To Avoid Dangerously Low Blood Sugar Levels
Glucose or blood sugar is one of the most vital macronutrients that are necessary for the proper functioning of the human body. Our body consumes carbohydrates, or in simpler words, complex molecules of sugar that are broken down to glucose during digestion. Glucose is absorbed from the intestinal lumen into the circulation and taken to the bodys cells for carrying out optimal biochemical processes.
Some primary food sources of glucose include dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter, bread, quinoa, oats, fruits, chickpeas, kidney beans, and potatoes. Apart from dietary sources, our body can also produce glucose from fats and proteins when required.
While fructose and galactose are also simple sugars that are readily absorbed by the body, glucose is the primary source of energy that our body utilizes for maintaining life. In healthy individuals, the body produces a hormone called insulin which is responsible for taking up glucose from the blood into the cells.
Insulin helps to maintain optimum blood sugar levels within the range of 80 to 180 mg/dl. After consuming food, our pancreas secretes insulin so that the cells can utilize or store excess blood sugar.
A level of 120 to 140 mg/dl after 2 hours of eating is considered optimum. However, a blood glucose level higher than 120mg/dl after 8 hours of fasting, and 180mg/dl after 2 hours of food consumption is considered excess, or a condition is known as Diabetes Mellitus.