Hypoglycemia

What is hypoglycemia? Hypoglycemia is a condition that results when your blood sugar is too low. Low blood sugar occurs when there is more insulin in your body at a given time than your body requires. Blood sugar below 70mg/dL is considered low. However, the levels at which the symptoms occur may vary from person to person.

Causes and Symptoms

Hypoglycemia can be caused by not matching your insulin to your food intake or your level of activity, stacking of insulin and overaggressive treatment of high glucose levels.

One of the biggest causes of low blood sugar is injecting too much insulin for the carbohydrates ingested. This can occur when we overestimate the number of carbohydrates in the food or eat less than planned, or delay eating after taking insulin. Low blood sugar can also occur during or even several hours after exercise so glucose levels need to be monitored and food and insulin adjusted if necessary. It is important to watch for the signs of hypoglycemia and take action to check and address low blood sugar once it has been confirmed. 

Some of the early warning symptoms of hypoglycemia are as follows:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Feeling Anxious
  • Palpitations
  • Feeling Hungry

At this stage, with a blood sugar reading at 75mg/dL or below, testing and treating to prevent any further drop is recommended. As blood sugar falls below 50mg/dL, your brain is no longer receiving a sufficient amount of glucose and you may experience more severe symptoms as follows:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Being aggressive / uncooperative
  • Acting out of character
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache

If you don't receive treatment for your blood sugar and your level continues to fall, you may lose conciousness. Getting to this stage can take up to 2 hours after early warning symptoms start but it can happen within 10 to 15 minutes of having severe symptoms.

Treatment

Treating low blood sugar consist of eating or drinking any food that has a lot of glucose and is easily absorbed. Sources include glucose tablets or gels, fruit juice or even 2 teaspoon of sugar dissolved in water. In most cases, 15 grams of carbohydrate are sufficient but if glucose is below 50mg/dL, 30 grams may be required. Blood sugar should be checked 15 minutes afterwards and another 15 grams of carbohydrates should be ingested if needed. This should be repeated every 15 minutes thereafter until glucose levels are in a safe range. If you lose consciousness, you will need an injection of glucagon. Glucagon causes the release of glycogen stores in the liver which is converted into glucose and released into the bloodstream. An injection of glucagon will usually take effect in 10 minutes.


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