The Dangers Of Low Blood Glucose
At some time, most people with diabetes experience the sweating and shakiness that occurs when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl a condition known as hypoglycemia. The average person with type 1 diabetes may experience symptoms of low blood glucose up to two times a week. However, not all are aware that these symptoms can rapidly progress to seizures, coma and even death if hypoglycemia is severe. Though hypoglycemia can be common and occur repeatedly in some people with diabetes, symptoms of low blood glucose should always be taken seriously. People with diabetes and their families, friends or coworkers should be prepared to act quickly and responsibly at the earliest signs of low blood glucose.
Treating An Episode Of Hypoglycaemia
The immediate treatment for hypoglycaemia is to have some sugary food or drink to end the attack.
For example, this could be:
- a glass of fruit juice or non-diet soft drink
- between three and five dextrose tablets
- a handful of sweets
At first you should avoid fatty foods and drinks, such as chocolate and milk, because they don’t usually contain as much sugar and the sugar they do contain may be absorbed more slowly.
After having something sugary, you should have a longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar, a piece of fruit or a sandwich.
It will usually take around 15 minutes to recover from a mild episode of hypoglycaemia. If you have a blood glucose meter, measure your blood sugar again after 15 to 20 minutes. If it’s still too low , you should have some more sugary food or a drink before testing your levels again in another 15 to 20 minutes.
When treating someone else with hypoglycaemia, if the above treatment isn’t effective, you may be able to help them by applying glucose gel to the inside of their cheeks, and gently massaging the outside of their cheeks.
It may take 10 to 15 minutes before they feel better. This shouldn’t be done if the person is drowsy or unconscious because of the risk of choking.
Listen To Your Doctor
If you follow a meal plan or take medications that increase insulin to manage low blood sugar, its important to stick to the plan your doctor prescribed to help prevent drops in your blood sugar level.
Not eating the right foods or taking the right medications at the correct times can cause your blood sugar to drop. Check in often with your doctor so they can adjust your treatment plan if and when necessary.
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Are There Special Times When Blood Glucose Should Be Measured
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What Is Hypoglycemia In Children
Hypoglycemia is when the level of sugar in the blood is too low. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the brain and the body. The normal range of blood glucose is about 70 to 140 milligrams per deciliter . The amount differs based on the most recent meal and other things, including medicines taken. Babies and small children with type 1 diabetes will have different goal ranges of blood glucose levels than older children.
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Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
How you react to low blood sugar may not be the same as how someone else with low blood sugar reacts. Its important to know your signs. Common symptoms may include:
- Fast heartbeat
If youve had low blood sugar without feeling or noticing symptoms , you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low and treat it. Driving with low blood sugar can be dangerous, so be sure to check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel.
You may not have any symptoms when your blood sugar is low . If you dont have symptoms, it will be harder to treat your low blood sugar early. This increases your risk of having severe lows and can be dangerous. This is more likely to happen if you:
- Have had diabetes for more than 5-10 years.
- Frequently have low blood sugar.
- Take certain medicines, such as beta blockers for high blood pressure.
If you meet one or more of the above and you have hypoglycemia unawareness, you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low. This is very important to do before driving or being physically active.
What Is Low Blood Sugar
When the body absorbs food, blood sugar goes up and the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin so the food can be digested and converted into energy. However, if blood sugar drops too low, the body tells the liver to release a type of sugar called glycogen, which is designed to help restore balance when the body perceives a problem.
For people who arent living with diabetes, this release of glycogen from the liver naturally occurs without them ever realizing it. However, for people living with diabetes, the bodys response to hypoglycemia is impaired.
Eventually, and sometimes on delay, the glycogen will release from the liver and the person with diabetes will experience hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. This rebound impact of hypoglycemia, followed by hyperglycemia, doesnt feel very good and can make the person feel tired and worn out.It is not just high blood sugars and lack of insulin that people with type 1 diabetes have to deal with, said Dr. Jordan Pinsker, Vice President and Medical Director for Tandem Diabetes Care who is also a leading endocrinologist. Many people do not realize that even shortly after the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is made, the cell signaling that the body uses to raise blood sugar is also not always working correctly. This makes it even harder to respond to a low blood sugar.
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Only Diabetics Get High Glucose Values
While a high glucose value can indicate diabetes, nondiabetics can also have higher values than normal. When researchers studied people wearing a continuous glucose monitor who did not have a diabetes diagnosis, they found 93% of individuals reached glucose levels that are considered dangerous, with 10% spending over 2 hours per day in these dangerous levels. Traditional glucose measurements, like a single point in time blood glucose value, are unable to capture these abnormalities.
There are actually several causes of high blood sugar unrelated to diabetes that the CDC recognizes. These include certain foods, like artificial sweeteners and coffee. Other factors like stress can do it, too. If you live with an endocrine or pancreatic condition, had surgery recently, or are experiencing intense physical stress , you may also see your glucose value rise.
Is Having High Blood Glucose Dangerous
In short, it can be. Zanini says that untreated high blood glucose can lead to a wide range of health issuesâsome of the most common being chronic inflammation, heart disease, vision impairment, kidney disease, nerve damage, tooth decay, damaged blood vessels, and periodontal disease.
Having high blood glucose also puts us at risk of mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress. The former is a condition in which mitochondria fail to produce energy for cells. The latter occurs when free radicals outnumber antioxidants in the body and increase the risk of disease and other damage.
Phipps notes to avoid these risks, catching high blood glucose early on, then taking action to treat it is extremely important.
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Understanding Your Blood Sugar
The best way to understand how your blood sugar changes day-to-day is to regularly use a blood glucose meter to check your blood sugar level. If youre newly diagnosed, its also helpful to keep a food journal in addition to a blood sugar log, as well as tracking any physical activity.
Your blood sugar patterns are unique to you. Over time youll have a better understanding of which foods raise your blood sugars the most, as well as how your blood sugar responds to different types of exercise.
Some people with diabetes choose to use a continuous glucose monitor to monitor their blood sugar trends.
A continuous glucose monitor is a device with a sensor worn under the skin which measures blood sugar levels every 5-15 minutes. This is useful for identifying trends in blood sugar levels and can help predict and identify hypoglycemia sooner.
Using a CGM can reduce the amount of finger prick glucose tests needed each day, which is an added benefit.
How Common Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose is common among people with type 1 diabetes and among people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin or some other diabetes medicines. In a large global study of people with diabetes who take insulin, 4 in 5 people with type 1 diabetes and nearly half of those with type 2 diabetes reported a low blood sugar event at least once over a 4-week period.2
Severely low blood glucose, defined as when your blood glucose level drops so low you cant treat it yourself, is less common. Among U.S. adults with diabetes who take insulin or some diabetes medicines that help the pancreas release insulin into the blood, 2 in 100 may develop severely low blood glucose each year.3
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When Blood Sugar Is Too Low
Hypoglycemia is the medical word for low blood sugar level. It needs to be treated right away. Why? Because glucose, or sugar, is the body’s main fuel source. That means your body including your brain needs glucose to work properly.
When blood sugar levels go lower than they’re supposed to, you can get very sick. Your parents and your diabetes health care team will tell you what your blood sugar levels should be and what to do if they get too low.
What Is The Cure For Low Blood Sugar
What is the cure for low blood sugar? One very effective natural cure for low blood sugar is licorice. This herb has a mild sweet taste and helps increase the blood sugar level in the body. Drink a cup of licorice root tea whenever you experience symptoms of low blood sugar.
How do you fix low blood sugar? Use During Hypoglycemia. Orange juice is one of the recommended sources of carbohydrate for treating low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, in diabetics because it quickly increases your blood sugar levels. For this condition, drink 4 ounces of orange juice and recheck blood sugar levels after 10 to 15 minutes, repeating the treatment if blood sugar levels are still too low.
What are the symptoms of blood sugar drop? When blood sugar levels drop, symptoms can include trembling, anxiety, palpitations , sweating, clammy skin, and hunger.
How do you treat hypoglycemia? Treatment of hypoglycemia is by eating foods high in simple sugars or taking dextrose. If a person is not able to take food by mouth, an injection of glucagon may help. The treatment of hypoglycemia unrelated to diabetes includes treating the underlying problem as well and a healthy diet.
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Hypoglycemia In Children: Pediatric Ketotic Hypoglycemia
Some children experience pediatric ketotic hypoglycemia, a condition involving low blood sugar levels and high levels of ketones. If people do not have enough glucose to use as energy, the body begins to break down fat in the body instead. The body produces chemicals called ketones as a by-product of breaking down fat.
According to a 2019 study , pediatric ketotic hypoglycemia usually occurs due to poor intake of food, a gastrointestinal illness and vomiting, or a period of prolonged fasting. Severe metabolic and hormonal conditions may also cause pediatric ketotic hypoglycemia.
Pediatric ketotic hypoglycemia may affect children from 6 months old and often resolves after the age of 6 years.
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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What Are The Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of blood sugar dropping quickly.
These symptoms could include:
- An accelerated heartbeat
When someone experiences a low blood sugar , their brain tells their body they need to eat. The tendency to eat until we feel well may fix the low blood sugar, but it may also be too much of a sugar intake that will require additional insulin later. This is why its important to be aware of carbohydrate intake.
Traveling Can Disrupt Routines And Thus Sugars
Skipping a few time zones during a long flight throws almost everyone off, but it’s an even bigger concern for people with diabetes. The time change can disrupt your medication schedule and cause unusual eating and sleeping habits, which interfere with blood sugar control, McDermott says.
Plus, when youre on vacation or traveling, you may eat more, drink more alcohol, or be more active all of which can cause blood sugar swings. She advises checking your blood sugar more frequently while traveling to catch any concerning trends before they become serious problems.
McDermott also recommends packing healthy carb-balanced snacks as well as a refillable water bottle to help you stay hydrated. Try to eat something every four hours throughout the day, even if it cant be at the exact same times you usually eat. If you take insulin and you’re shifting time zones, be sure to work out a medication schedule with your diabetes care team before your trip so you don’t mistime any doses, she says.
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Artificial Sweeteners May Alter Blood Sugar Response
Many people with diabetes reach for diet drinks as a substitute for regular soda or juice because they assume that sugar-free beverages won’t raise their blood sugar. But a review published in January 2021 in Frontiers in Nutrition suggested that artificial sweeteners may not be completely neutral after all, and may contribute to impaired glucose homeostasis.
But the research isn’t definitive most government and medical institutions maintain that most artificial sweeteners have no effect on blood sugar. So what could be going on? Mayo Clinic suggests that people can experience a rebound effect when consuming artificial sugars. They consider the sugar-free food healthy, so end up consuming excessive amounts or eating other carb-filled foods because they think the diet drink lets them afford it. The clinic also notes that some noncaloric sweeteners can cause diarrhea, which can contribute to dehydration.
“If you drink a lot of diet soda then you might want to cut back and see if it has an impact on your blood glucose,” says Patty Bonsignore, RN, CDCES, a nurse educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. Keep things sugar-free by turning to water or seltzer as opposed to regular soda or juice.
Caution: Birth Control Pills
Types that have estrogen can affect the way your body handles insulin. Still, oral contraceptives are safe for women with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association suggests a combination pill with norgestimate and synthetic estrogen. The group also says birth control shots and implants are safe for women with the condition, though they can affect your blood sugar levels.
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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:
- hard candies
- 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.
The Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar levels can happen to kids with diabetes because of the medicines they have to take. Kids with diabetes may need a hormone called insulin and/or diabetes pills to help their bodies use the sugar in their blood. These medicines help take the sugar out of the blood and get it into the body’s cells, which makes the level of sugar in the blood go down.
But sometimes it’s a tricky balancing act, and blood sugar levels can get too low. Kids with diabetes need to keep their blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low. How do they do it? With help from grown-ups, they keep three things in balance:
Each one of these can affect the other. For instance, eating more might mean a kid needs more insulin. And exercising might create the need for an extra snack. Again, a grown-up can help you learn how to juggle those three activities so you keep feeling good.
Some things that can make low blood sugar levels more likely to happen are:
- skipping meals and snacks
- not eating enough food at a meal or snack
- exercising longer or harder than usual without eating something extra
- getting too much insulin
- not timing the insulin doses properly with meals, snacks, and exercise
- taking a long bath or shower right after an insulin shot
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