Symptoms Of Mild Low Blood Sugar
You may have these symptoms when your blood sugar has dropped below 70 milligrams per deciliter . When you have had diabetes for many years, you may not always develop symptoms of mild low blood sugar.
Some young children with diabetes cannot recognize symptoms of low blood sugar. Others can, but not every time. To be safe, the parents need to do a home blood sugar test whenever they suspect low blood sugar in a child.
Symptoms may include:
- Sweating . Check for sweating on the back of your neck at your hairline.
- Nervousness, shakiness, and weakness.
- Extreme hunger and slight nausea.
- Dizziness and headache.
- A fast heartbeat and feeling anxious.
These symptoms may go away shortly after you eat food that contains sugar.
What Are The Complications Associated With Hypoglycemia
Its important to manage your hypoglycemia because it can cause long-term health problems. Your body needs glucose to function. Without the right level of glucose, your body will struggle to perform its normal functions. As a result, you may have difficulty thinking clearly and performing even simple tasks.
How To Treat A Low Blood Sugar Level Yourself
Follow these steps if your blood sugar level is less than 4mmol/L or you have hypo symptoms:
You do not usually need to get medical help once you’re feeling better if you only have a few hypos.
But tell your diabetes team if you keep having hypos or if you stop having symptoms when your blood sugar level is low.
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Reduce And Manage Stress
Stress increases your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to imbalances in your blood sugar and in many other hormones. Experiencing some stress from time to time is normal, but chronic stress can have serious consequences on your health and raise your blood sugar levels.
Proven ways to decrease stress are regular exercise, stretching, meditation, yoga practice, deep breathing, mindfulness practices, listening to music, family time, making time for self-care, and hobbies. Just 10 to 30 minutes a day of consistent practice of one or more of the above can make a huge difference in well-being, Dr. Raja advises.
Following a regular sleep routine, avoiding excessive screen time, and adjusting your work schedule to make time self-care is also important. I am a big proponent of taking time for self-care, family, and hobbies. These activities bring you joy and result in better health.
What Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose, also called low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below what is healthy for you. For many people with diabetes, this means a blood glucose reading lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter .1 Your number might be different, so check with your doctor or health care team to find out what blood glucose level is low for you.
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No Symptoms Be Alarmed
Surprisingly, the most dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia occur with little or no warning. When low blood glucose occurs on a regular basis, the body can become used to the warning signs and the person may stop noticing symptoms. This is a particularly dangerous condition known as hypoglycemic unawareness. People with this condition might not realize they have low blood glucose until it’s dangerously low seizures and coma are sometimes the first indication of a problem. The good news is that this condition can often be reversed allowing people to once again notice the signs of low blood glucose if hypoglycemia is avoided for a few weeks through careful monitoring of blood glucose.
Signs Of Hypoglycemic Unawareness
Some people have no symptoms of low blood sugar. The only symptom you may have is confusion. Or you may become unconscious before anyone realizes you have low blood sugar.
You may have hypoglycemic unawareness if you:
- Cannot tell by your symptoms that your blood sugar is low.
- Have low blood sugar several times a week.
- Have type 1 diabetes, or have had type 2 diabetes for a long time.
If you have hypoglycemic unawareness, test your blood sugar often, especially before activities like driving a car. Keep quick-sugar foods with you. If you take insulin, carry a glucagon emergency kit. You can also give friends and family instructions to treat low blood sugar.
Check Your Blood Sugar Often
Talk with your provider about when you should check your blood sugar every day. People who have low blood sugar need to check their blood sugar more often.
The most common causes of low blood sugar are:
- Taking your insulin or diabetes medicine at the wrong time
- Taking too much insulin or diabetes medicine
- Taking insulin to correct high blood sugar without eating any food
- Not eating enough during meals or snacks after you have taken insulin or diabetes medicine
- Waiting too long after taking your medicine to eat your meals
- Exercising a lot or at a time that is unusual for you
- Not checking your blood sugar or not adjusting your insulin dose before exercising
- Drinking alcohol
What Are The Complications Of Low Blood Glucose
Mild-to-moderate low blood glucose can be easily treated. But severely low blood glucose can cause serious complications, including passing out, coma, or death.
Repeated episodes of low blood glucose can lead to
- high blood glucose levels, if worry or fear of low blood glucose keeps you from taking the medicines you need to manage your diabetes8
- hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which you dont notice any symptoms of low blood glucose until your blood glucose level has dropped very low
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What Causes A Low Blood Sugar Level
In people with diabetes, the main causes of a low blood sugar level are:
- the effects of medicine especially taking too much insulin, medicines called sulfonylureas , medicines called glinides , or some antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C
- skipping or delaying a meal
- not eating enough carbohydrate foods in your last meal, such as bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes and fruit
- exercise, especially if it’s intense or unplanned
- drinking alcohol
Sometimes there’s no obvious reason why a low blood sugar level happens.
Very occasionally, it can happen in people who do not have diabetes.
How Do I Treat An Episode Of Hypoglycemia
The American Diabetes Association recommends the 15-15 rule for an episode of hypoglycemia:
- Eat or drink 15 grams of carbs to raise your blood sugar.
- After 15 minutes, check your blood sugar.
- If its still below 70 mg/dL, have another 15 grams of carbs.
- Repeat until your blood sugar is at least 70 mg/dL.
If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia but cant test your blood sugar, use the 15-15 rule until you feel better.
Note: Children need fewer grams of carbs. Check with your healthcare provider.
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Possible Causes With Diabetes
Diabetes affects your bodys ability to use insulin. Think of insulin as the key that unlocks your cells, letting in glucose for energy.
If you have diabetes, a variety of treatments can help the cells in your body use the glucose in your blood. Among these are insulin injections and oral medications that increase insulin production.
If you take too much of these types of medications, your blood sugar may drop too low. You may also sometimes experience low blood sugar if you plan to eat a big meal but then do not eat enough.
Skipping meals, eating less than usual, or eating later than usual but taking your medication at your usual time can also lead to low blood sugar levels.
Unplanned excess physical activity without eating enough can also cause a drop in blood sugar levels.
Drinking alcohol when youre on these medications can also lead to low blood sugar, especially if it replaces food. When your body is trying to get rid of alcohol, it becomes worse at managing blood sugar levels.
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.
For more information, see:
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Whats The Link Between Diabetes And Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is most common, by far, in people with diabetes. Treatment for the diseaseoften involves taking medication to increase insulin. Hypoglycemia can develop if things like food, exercise and diabetes medications are out of balance.
Common pitfalls for people with diabetes include:
- Being more active than usual.
- Drinking alcohol without eating.
- Eating late or skipping meals.
- Not balancing meals by including fat, protein and fiber.
- Not eating enough carbohydrates.
- Not timing insulin and carb intake correctly .
Also, if someone with diabetes uses the wrong insulin, takes too much or injects it incorrectly, that can cause hypoglycemia.
Drink Water And Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water could help you keep your blood sugar levels within healthy ranges.
In addition to preventing dehydration, it helps your kidneys flush out any excess sugar through urine.
One review of observational studies showed that those who drank more water had a lower risk of developing high blood sugar levels (
You can do so at home using a portable blood glucose meter, which is known as a glucometer. You can discuss this option with your doctor.
Keeping track allows you to determine whether you need to adjust your meals or medications. It also helps you learn how your body reacts to certain foods .
Try measuring your levels regularly every day and keeping track of the numbers in a log. Also, it may be more helpful to track your blood sugar in pairs for example, before and after exercise or before and 2 hours after a meal.
This can show you whether you need to make small changes to a meal if it spikes your blood sugar, rather than avoiding your favorite meals altogether. Some adjustments include swapping a starchy side for non-starchy veggies or limiting them to a handful.
Checking your blood glucose and maintaining a daily log enables you to adjust foods and medications when necessary to better manage your blood sugar levels.
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If A Person Is Unconscious
If a person loses consciousness because of severe hypoglycaemia, they need to be put into the recovery position and given an injection of the hormone glucagon . The injection will raise their blood glucose level.
The injection should be carried out by a friend or family member who knows what they’re doing, or by a trained healthcare professional.
You should dial 999 to request an ambulance if:
- a glucagon injection kit isn’t available
- there’s nobody available who’s trained to give the injection
- the injection is ineffective after 10 minutes
Never try to put food or drink into the mouth of someone who’s unconscious as they could choke.
If you’re able to give a glucagon injection and the person regains consciousness, they should eat some longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar or a sandwich.
You should continue to monitor the person for signs of recurring symptoms in case they need to be treated again.
Dont Rely On Supplements Or Vitamins
Theres no shortcut to maintaining good blood sugars. A supplement or vitamin alone will not give you healthy blood sugar levels and they can interact negatively with other medications. Speak to your healthcare provider and perhaps ask for a referral for a dietitian who specializes in blood sugar control before incorporating dietary supplements, shakes, or vitamins to achieve blood sugar control.
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If You Dont Have Diabetes
Even if you dont have diabetes, its important to eat regularly to prevent hypoglycemia. Ideally, meals and snacks should contain a balance of carbs, protein, and heart-healthy fats to help support healthy blood sugar levels.
You may also want to keep a few healthy snacks on hand in case you start feeling side effects such as hunger, sweating, or shakiness. Fresh fruit, trail mix, and crackers with peanut butter are a few quick and easy snack ideas for low blood sugar levels.
If you regularly experience low blood sugar levels, talk with your doctor to see whether underlying factors could play a role.
Hypoglycemia is a serious condition that can occur when your blood sugar levels drop too low. Although its more common in people with diabetes, it can also be caused by other health conditions.
If left untreated, hypoglycemia can cause serious side effects and long-term health consequences.
However, there are plenty of ways to prevent hypoglycemia, including eating regularly, following a healthy diet, monitoring your blood sugar levels carefully, taking medications as directed by your doctor, and, in some cases, surgery.
Treating Low Blood Glucose If You Take Medicines That Slow Down Digestion
Some diabetes medicines slow down the digestion of carbohydrates to keep blood glucose levels from rising too high after you eat. If you develop low blood glucose while taking these medicines, you will need to take glucose tablets or glucose gel right away. Eating or drinking other sources of carbohydrates wont raise your blood glucose level quickly enough.
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Your Diabetes Devices And Hypoglycemia
Several insulin pumps are now available that make managing blood sugar levels easier, particularly when connected to a glucose meter or a CGM.
Some of the most important advantages of CGM devices are the improved insulin control and the ability to detect trends and lows early. With improved technology, it is now possible for parents to track blood sugar trends in their kids even when they are hundreds of miles apart .
In addition, automated insulin delivery systems, also known an artificial pancreas or a hybrid closed-loop system, will automatically adjust insulin to match your bodys need to help you spend more time in your target range.
Resources that provide people with T1D and their families with more detailed information about pumps and CGM devices are available through JDRF . For people looking for a deeper understanding of technology that helps people with T1D better manage their blood sugar, JDRF resources are available .
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
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How Can I Check My Blood Sugar
Use a blood sugar meter or a continuous glucose monitor to check your blood sugar. A blood sugar meter measures the amount of sugar in a small sample of blood, usually from your fingertip. A CGM uses a sensor inserted under the skin to measure your blood sugar every few minutes. If you use a CGM, youll still need to test daily with a blood sugar meter to make sure your CGM readings are accurate.
What Are Blood Sugar Targets
A blood sugar target is the range you try to reach as much as possible. These are typical targets:
- Before a meal: 80 to 130 mg/dL.
- Two hours after the start of a meal: Less than 180 mg/dL.
Your blood sugar targets may be different depending on your age, any additional health problems you have, and other factors. Be sure to talk to your health care team about which targets are best for you.
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How To Test Your Blood Sugar At Home
To perform a blood sugar test, you will need to prick your finger with a lancet . Youll put a small sample of blood from this onto a strip inserted into the blood glucose meter.
Before you test your blood sugar at home, its important to find out from your doctor what a healthy blood sugar range is for you. Your doctor will determine this range based on factors such as:
- the type of diabetes you have
- how long youve had diabetes
- whether you have any other chronic health conditions
If you dont have a blood sugar testing machine on hand and are experiencing signs or symptoms of low blood sugar with diabetes, your symptoms may be enough to diagnose low blood sugar.
When Your Blood Sugar Gets Low
Check your blood sugar whenever you have symptoms of low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL, treat yourself right away.
1. Eat something that has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Examples are:
- 3 glucose tablets
- One half cup of fruit juice or regular, non-diet soda
- 5 or 6 hard candies
- 1 tablespoon or 15 mL of sugar, plain or dissolved in water
- 1 tbsp of honey or syrup
2. Wait about 15 minutes before eating any more. Be careful not to eat too much. This can cause high blood sugar and weight gain.
3. Check your blood sugar again.
4. If you do not feel better in 15 minutes and your blood sugar is still lower than 70 mg/dL , eat another snack with 15 g of carbohydrates.
You may need to eat a snack with carbohydrates and protein if your blood sugar is in a safer range — over 70 mg/dL — and your next meal is more than an hour away.
Ask your provider how to manage this situation. If these steps for raising your blood sugar do not work, call your doctor right away.
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