HYPOGLYCEMIA (LOW BLOOD SUGAR)
What is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is a condition where there is not enough glucose, or sugar, in the blood.
Levels of blood sugar are below 4 mmol/L (72mg/dL).
Possible causes, with diabetes
People with diabetes may not make enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or may be less responsive to it (type 2 diabetes). As a result, glucose tends to build up in the bloodstream and may reach dangerously high levels. To correct this problem, someone with diabetes may take insulin or other drugs to lower blood sugar levels.
But too much insulin or other diabetes medications may cause your blood sugar level to drop too low, causing hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia may also happen if you don't eat as much food as usual after taking diabetes medication, or if you exercise more than you normally would.
Possible causes, without diabetes
Hypoglycemia in people without diabetes is much less common. Causes may include the following:
- Medications. Taking someone else's oral diabetes medication accidentally is a possible cause of hypoglycemia. Other medications may cause hypoglycemia, especially in children or in people with kidney failure. One example is quinine (Qualaquin), which is used to treat malaria.
- Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking heavily without eating can block your liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream, causing hypoglycemia.
- Some critical illnesses. Severe illnesses of the liver, such as severe hepatitis, can cause hypoglycemia. Disorders of the kidney, which can keep your body from properly excreting medications, can affect glucose levels due to a buildup of those medications. Long-term starvation, as may occur in the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, can result in the depletion of substances your body needs to generate glucose (gluconeogenesis), causing hypoglycemia.
- Insulin overproduction. A rare tumor of the pancreas (insulinoma) may cause overproduction of insulin, resulting in hypoglycemia. Other tumors may result in excessive production of insulin-like substances. Enlargement of beta cells of the pancreas that produce insulin (nesidioblastosis) may result in excessive insulin release, causing hypoglycemia.
- Hormone deficiencies. Certain disorders of the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland can result in a deficiency of key hormones that regulate glucose production. Children may experience hypoglycemia if they have a deficiency of growth hormone.
If blood sugar levels become too low, signs and symptoms may include:
- An irregular heart rhythm
- Pale skin
- Tingling sensation around the mouth
- Crying out during sleep
If a person does not take action when symptoms of hypoclycemia appear, it can lead to :
- loss of consciousness
A person who regularly experiences hypoglycemia may become unaware that it is happening. They will not notice the warning signs, and this can lead to severe and possibly fatal complications.
Ways of preventing hypoglycemia include:
- Checking blood glucose levels: Check blood sugar levels regularly and know how to identify the onset of symptoms.
- Eat regularly: Keep to an eating routine.
- Alcohol: Follow the daily alcohol limits recommended by a doctor, and eat something after having a drink.
- Exercise: Eat carbohydrate-rich food before exercising.
- Be ready: Carry a container of sugary fruit juice or a candy bar in case symptoms appear.
- Let people know : Those who are prone to low blood sugar should let friends, colleagues, and family members know.
- ID: People with diabetes should carry a form of ID or medical bracelet. This will enable healthcare providers, emergency services, and others to know what to do sooner.
When to see a doctor
Seek a doctor's help immediately if:
- You have what may be symptoms of hypoglycemia and you don't have diabetes.
- You have diabetes and hypoglycemia isn't responding to treatment. Initial treatment of hypoglycemia is drinking juice or regular soft drinks, eating candy or taking glucose tablets. If this treatment doesn't raise your blood sugar and improve your symptoms, contact your doctor right away.
Seek emergency help if:
- Someone with diabetes or a history of recurring hypoglycemia has symptoms of severe hypoglycemia or loses consciousness