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.
Nighttime Low Blood Sugar
While low blood sugar can happen at any time during the day, some people may experience low blood sugar while they sleep. Reasons this may happen include:
- Having an active day.
- Being physically active close to bedtime.
- Taking too much insulin.
- Drinking alcohol at night.
Eating regular meals and not skipping them can help you avoid nighttime low blood sugar. Eating when you drink alcohol can also help. If you think youre at risk for low blood sugar overnight, have a snack before bed.
You may wake up when you have low blood sugar, but you shouldnt rely on that. A continuous glucose monitor can alert you with an alarm if your blood sugar gets low while youre sleeping.
Other Ways To Prevent Reactive Hypoglycemia
Using extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil or nut- or seed-based oils for cooking can deliver healthy fats to your body, says Zumpano. Use these to cook your lean meats or add to cooked vegetables and salads to make a healthy, delicious combo. Limit high heat cooking with extra virgin olive oil and certain nut and seed oils.
Targeting foods that can deliver all these needs carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat at once is also a great way to maintain a good balance, she says. Nuts are a great example because, depending on what type youre eating, they feature all three of these and make a great snack that can keep your blood sugar better controlled.
Zumpano also suggests that if youre going to be drinking alcohol, be sure to drink with food instead of on an empty stomach.
And eating more often, such as consuming small meals or snacks every two-to-four hours, can also help. Eating more regularly can help prevent reactive hypoglycemia, so making sure youre keeping things balanced is good.
Be sure to listen to your body, too, she adds. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you feel that you may be experiencing the symptoms associated with reactive hypoglycemia. Seek a dietitian to help support you in minimizing the symptoms by changing your diet.
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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.
Causes Of Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose is common for people with type 1 diabetes and can occur in people with type 2 diabetes taking insulin or certain medications. The average person with type 1 diabetes may experience up to two episodes of mild low blood glucose each week, and thats only counting episodes with symptoms. If you add in lows without symptoms and the ones that happen overnight, the number would likely be higher.
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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.
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.
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Can You Have Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar Without Diabetes
Yes. Although diabetes is the most common condition associated with low blood sugar, other conditions may cause low blood sugar. Having low blood sugar may cause symptoms, regardless of the cause. If you have symptoms of low blood sugar, consult your healthcare provider for medical advice and a diagnosis.
What Are The Treatments For Hypoglycemia
Make an appointment with an endocrinologist if you feel like youre having episodes of hypoglycemia, even if youre not diabetic. Theyll talk you through treatment strategies, including:
Adjusting your medications. You may need to change how often you take insulin or other medications, which medications youre on, how much you take, and when you take them.
Working with a registered dietitian on a personalized meal plan that stabilizes blood sugar levels. Theres no one-size-fits-all hypoglycemia diet, but a nutritionist can help you figure out a consistent meal plan tailored to you, and teach you how to count carbohydrate grams to go along with your health and routine.
Increasing and improving self-monitoring of your blood glucose levels. Knowing your blood glucose level throughout the daywhen you get up, before meals, and after meals etc.can help you keep it from getting too low.
Limiting consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol interferes with the way your body metabolizes glucose. If you’re prone to hypoglycemia, consider decreasing how much alcohol you consume.
Glucose tablets . Make sure you always have glucose tablets on hand, whether at home, school, the office, or the gym. After taking the tablet, check your blood sugar. If its still low, take another tablet. If that doesnt help, check with your doctor.
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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.
Overview: What Does Low Blood Sugar Feel/look Like
Blood glucose, or blood sugar, is the main sugar in your blood. Blood sugar comes from the foods you eat. The blood carries glucose to the cells in your body, where they are used for energy. Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar. Low blood sugar may make you feel shaky, sweaty, and/or hungry. Hypoglycemia requires immediate treatment. If blood sugar levels drop too low, it can be dangerous, causing more severe symptoms. Low blood sugar is often associated with diabetes treatment, although other medications or conditions can cause low blood sugar in individuals who do not have diabetes. Continue reading to learn more about low blood sugar, its symptoms, and treatment.
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Most Importantly Be Prepared
Most importantly, low blood sugar symptoms are manageableespecially if you are prepared. You can put together a backpack or travel bag with your necessary supplies. For example, in your bag, you can have a blood glucose meter, extra strips and lancets, a lancing device, alcohol wipes, extra batteries, sources of fast-acting sugar such as juice boxes, regular soda, glucose tablets, Smarties, Skittles, and gummy bears.
Include emergency contact information and an emergency low blood sugar treatment such as Baqsimi or a glucagon injection. However, emergency treatments only work if you know how to use them, so make sure you can show your family and caregivers how to administer your emergency low blood sugar treatmentand make sure they know where it is located. Keep this bag with you at all times. If your blood sugar starts to drop, you can quickly reach into your bag and eat or drink something to increase your blood sugar right away, rather than panicking and searching for food or standing in a line somewhere. Being prepared eliminates panic and allows you to treat yourself quickly. Wear a medical identification such as a medical ID bracelet or necklace. This will alert first responders to your medical condition in an emergency.
Signs And Symptoms Of Low Blood Glucose
Each person’s reaction to low blood glucose is different. Learn your own signs and symptoms of when your blood glucose is low. Taking time to write these symptoms down may help you learn your own symptoms of when your blood glucose is low. From milder, more common indicators to most severe, signs and symptoms of low blood glucose include:
- Color draining from the skin
- Feeling weak or having no energy
- Blurred/impaired vision
- Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks
- Nightmares or crying out during sleep
The only sure way to know whether you are experiencing low blood glucose is to check your blood glucose levels, if possible. If you are experiencing symptoms and you are unable to check your blood glucose for any reason, treat the hypoglycemia.
A low blood glucose level triggers the release of epinephrine , the fight-or-flight hormone. Epinephrine is what can cause the symptoms of hypoglycemia such as thumping heart, sweating, tingling, and anxiety.
If the blood sugar glucose continues to drop, the brain does not get enough glucose and stops functioning as it should. This can lead to blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, confused thinking, slurred speech, numbness, and drowsiness. If blood glucose stays low for too long, starving the brain of glucose, it may lead to seizures, coma, and very rarely death.
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How To Treat Low Blood Sugar
If you think you have low blood sugar, be sure to check it.
Keeping your blood sugar levels on target as much as possible can help prevent or delay long-term, serious health problems. While this is important, closely managing your blood sugar levels also increases your chance for low blood sugar . Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low. If you think you have low blood sugar, check it. If you arent able to check it, go ahead and treat it.
Untreated low blood sugar can be dangerous, so its important to know what to do about it and to treat it immediately.
What Is The Most Common Cause Of Low Blood Sugar
The most common cause of low blood sugar is taking too much insulin. This can happen in people with Type 1 diabetes, because all individuals with Type 1 diabetes need insulin. This can also happen in people with Type 2 diabetes who use insulin to manage their blood sugar. Some oral diabetes medications can also commonly cause low blood sugar.
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When It’s Time To Call A Doctor
If any of the symptoms mentioned have begun to impact your life, such as fatigue so severe you can’t stay awake through the day, it’s a good idea to consult your physician. Dr. Fruge warns that “unstable blood sugar levels could put you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke and it is a red flag for serious health issues” — so blood sugar issues should be taken seriously.
You should also see a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia and haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes or any other underlying condition.
If you do have diabetes and your hypoglycemia isn’t responding to the treatments described above, that’s another good cue to call your health care provider.
If testing reveals you have Type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to continue to test your blood sugar levels as often as instructed by your physician, take insulin regularly and participate in regular exercise. This may mean you will need a new glucose monitoring system, so ask your doctor what they recommend. If you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you’ll most likely need to do the same as for Type 1, as well as working with health care professionals to make lifestyle changes such as improving nutrition and planning workouts. Medication may be necessary as well.
Healthy eating, regular exercise and other lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms and possibly even reverse prediabetes.
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Act Quickly To Treat The Situation
If you suspect you have low blood sugar, Dr. Fruge recommends quickly treating the situation, which she says should include “eating healthy foods such as complex carbohydrates, beans or fruit.”
“At the Pritikin Longevity Center we serve a cup of fruit with a cup of veggies to prevent a spike in insulin, which can sometimes lead to a later drop in blood sugar again,” she explains. “Adjusting your diabetes medication as prescribed by your physician may also be necessary. It’s important to retest your blood sugar 20 minutes after eating to confirm it has improved.”
Keep a fast-acting carbohydrate snack or two on hand in case your blood sugar dips below healthy levels.
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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
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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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia tends to present as a cluster of symptoms, and they often occur together. The most common signs of dangerously low blood sugar include:
Dizziness, disorientation, light-headedness, and an inability to think clearly
Hunger, especially if youve just eaten
Heightened irritability, confusion, and anxiety
Clamminess and sweating, with cold hands and feet
Drastic mood swings
If you have one or more of these symptoms contact your doctor.
Treatment Plan For Lows
*** Remember that IOB calculations CANNOT be accurate unless your Active Insulin Time or Duration of Insulin Action time is set to at least 4.5 hours or LONGER!
More grams of carbs than these will likely be needed:
- If you forget and take 2 boluses/injections for a meal, or
- If you took a meal bolus but never ate the meal .
Quick treatment reduces stress hormone release and the chances of your glucose rising sharply afterward. Plus youll quickly feel better and your brain, muscles, and cells will thank you for resupplying the fuel that shortens their misery.
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Treat Severe Hypoglycemia With Glucagon
If you develop severe hypoglycemia, you may be too confused or disoriented to eat or drink. In some cases, you may develop seizures or lose consciousness.
If this happens, its important for you to receive glucagon treatment. This hormone signals your liver to release stored glucose, raising your blood sugar level.
To prepare for a potential emergency, you can buy a glucagon emergency kit or nasal powder. Let your family members, friends, or coworkers know where to find this medication and teach them when and how to use it.