Signs And Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
Each person’s reaction to low blood sugar is different. Learn your own signs and symptoms of when your blood sugar is low. Taking time to write these symptoms down may help you learn your own symptoms of when your blood sugar is low. From milder, more common indicators to most severe, signs and symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- Feeling shaky
- Color draining from the skin
- Feeling sleepy
- 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 sugar is to check your blood sugar, if possible. If you are experiencing symptoms and you are unable to check your blood sugar for any reason, treat the hypoglycemia.
A low blood sugar 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 level 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 sugar stays low for too long, starving the brain of glucose, it may lead to seizures, coma and very rarely death.
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 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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Preventing A Low Blood Sugar Level
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of getting a low blood sugar level if you:
- Check your blood sugar level regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar level so you can treat it quickly.
- Always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets. If you have a glucagon injection kit, always keep it with you.
- Do not skip meals.
- Be careful when drinking alcohol. Do not drink large amounts, check your blood sugar level regularly, and eat a carbohydrate snack afterwards.
- Be careful when exercising eating a carbohydrate snack before exercise can help to reduce the risk of a hypo. If you take some types of diabetes medicine, your doctor may recommend you take a lower dose before or after doing intense exercise.
- Have a carbohydrate snack, such as toast, if your blood sugar level drops too low while you’re asleep
If you keep getting a low blood sugar level, talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it.
What Is Blood Glucose Monitoring
People use blood glucose monitoring to regularly test glucose levels in the blood.
It is an essential part of effective diabetes control. Many people with diabetes must check several times each day to plan for activities and meals, as well as scheduling doses of medication or insulin.
A person can test their blood glucose levels with a glucometer. They usually come with lancets, or tiny needles, a logbook to record results, and test strips.
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Can You Prevent Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia might sound a little scary, so you might wonder if you can avoid it. No matter how well they take care of themselves, kids with diabetes will sometimes have low blood sugar levels. But taking these steps can help:
- Try to eat all your meals and snacks on time and don’t skip any.
- Take the right amount of insulin.
- If you exercise longer or harder than usual, have an extra snack.
- Don’t take a hot bath or shower right after an insulin shot.
- Stick to your diabetes management plan.
What else can you do? Wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace that says you have diabetes. Then, if you are not feeling well, whoever’s helping you even if the person doesn’t know you will know to call for medical help. Medical identification also can include your doctor’s phone number or a parent’s phone number. The quicker you get help, the quicker you’ll be feeling better.
Can You Have Hypoglycemia Without Diabetes
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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.
How Serious Is Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemic episodes can range from mild to severe.
Mild hypoglycemia can usually be treated by the individual and are to be expected to some degree in people on insulin. Mild hypos are not associated with significant long term health problems unless they are occurring very regularly or for long periods of time.
Severe hypoglycemia, however, will require treatment from someone else and may require an ambulance. Severe hypos can lead to immediate danger if not treated immediately. Whilst rare, severe hypos can potentially lead to coma and death.
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What Is A Good Blood Sugar Level
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What Causes Hypoglycemia Without Diabetes
People without diabetes experience hypoglycemia when the body produces excess insulin after meals, which causes the blood sugar to drop. This is known as reactive hypoglycemia.
Reactive hypoglycemia can also be an early sign of diabetes in a few people. There are also other health issues that can lead to hypoglycemia without diabetes.
Drinking Alcohol In Excess
When the blood sugar is low, a hormone called glucagon is released from the pancreas. This hormone signals the liver to break down stored energy. The liver releases glucose back into the bloodstream to bring back the blood sugar levels to normal.
Excessive alcohol consumption can make it difficult for the liver to function and hence it is not able to release the glucose back into the bloodstream.
This leads to temporary hypoglycemia.
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Spinning In Circles But Not At Soulcycle
To diagnose nondiabetic hypoglycemia, your doctor will review your symptoms, do a physical exam, study your risk factors, and then order a fasting or random glucose test to check your blood sugar level.
This test involves taking a blood sample and may include an 8-hour overnight fast or a longer supervised fast .
During the longer fast, a healthcare provider will check your blood glucose levels every few hours. This is probably the most reliable test to identify fasting hypoglycemia.
What Should Be The Diet For A Person With Nondiabetic Hypoglycemia
If you suffer from episodes of hypoglycemia without even having diabetes, you will need to carry a pack of sugar candies or biscuits wherever you go. Ask your doctor or dietician about what your diet should be, which can help you prevent hypoglycemic episodes. The following may help you avoid episodes of hypoglycemia:
- Eat frequent, small meals each day instead of three large meals
- Do not skip meals
- Cut back on refined carbohydrates
- Have a well-balanced diet that is rich in proteins, contains carbohydrates, fat , fruits, and vegetables
- Limit alcohol or drink it along with meals or after meals
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How Is Hypoglycemia Diagnosed
Hypoglycemia can occur in a fasting state, meaning youve gone for an extended period without eating. Your doctor may ask you to take a fasting test. This test can last as long as 72 hours. During the test, youll have your blood drawn at different times to measure your blood glucose level.
Another test is a mixed-meal tolerance test. This test is for people experiencing hypoglycemia after eating.
Both tests will involve a blood draw at your doctors office. The results are usually available within a day or two. If your blood sugar level is lower than 50 to 70 milligrams per deciliter, you may have hypoglycemia. That number can vary from one person to another. Some peoples bodies naturally have lower blood sugar levels. Your doctor will diagnose you based on your blood sugar levels.
Keep track of your symptoms and let your doctor know what symptoms youre experiencing. One way to do this is to keep a symptom diary. Your diary should include any symptoms youre experiencing, what youve eaten, and how long before or after a meal your symptoms occurred. This information will help your doctor make a diagnosis.
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 here. For people looking for a deeper understanding of technology that helps people with T1D better manage their blood sugar, JDRF resources are available here.
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Hypoglycemia In Children: Pediatric Ketotic Hypoglycemia
Some children experience pediatric ketotic hypoglycemia, involving low blood sugar levels and high levels of a substance known as ketones.
Doctors do not know exactly why this happens, but causes may include:
- metabolism problems that the child was born
- conditions that lead to excess production of certain hormones
Symptoms usually appear after the age of 6 months and disappear before adolescence.
- mood changes
- clumsy or jerky movements
If a child shows any of the above signs or symptoms, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
How Can I Prevent Hypoglycemia
You may need to change what and when you eat to prevent low blood sugar levels. Follow the meal plan that you and the dietitian have planned. The following guidelines may help you keep your blood sugar levels under control.
- Eat 5 to 6 small meals each day instead of 3 large meals. Eat the same amount of carbohydrate at meals and snacks each day. Most people need about 3 to 4 servings of carbohydrate at meals and 1 to 2 servings for snacks. Do not skip meals. Carbohydrate counting can be used plan your meals. Ask your healthcare provider or dietitian for information about carbohydrate counting.
- Limit refined carbohydrates. Examples are white bread, pastries , regular sodas, syrups, and candy.
- Do not have drinks or foods that contain caffeine. Examples are coffee, tea, and certain types of sodas. Caffeine may cause you to have the same symptoms as hypoglycemia, and may cause you to feel worse.
- Limit or do not drink alcohol. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1Â½ ounces of liquor. Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Drink alcohol with meals to avoid hypoglycemia.
- Include protein foods and vegetables in your meals. Some foods that are high in protein include beef, pork, fish, poultry , beans, and nuts. Eat a variety of vegetables with your meals.
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Can Hypoglycemia Be Prevented
Yes, hypoglycemia can be avoided with preventive stepswhether you have diabetes or not.
If you have hypoglycemia with diabetes, its all about sticking to your diabetes management plan. Double-check your insulin or medication dosage before taking it, and let your healthcare provider know if you change your eating or exercise habits. It might affect your glucose levels.
Or, consider a continuous glucose monitor . It transmits blood sugar to a receiver, and alerts you if its dropping too low. Then, be sure to always have glucose tablets or injectable glucagon on hand. If you pass out from low blood sugar and require immediate treatment, your friends or loved ones can administer a dose.
If you have hypoglycemia without diabetes, diet and exercise adjustments should prevent many episodes of hypoglycemia if there is no underlying condition. Your healthcare provider may recommend eating frequent small meals, consuming a varied diet of fats, protein, and carbohydrates, or only exercising after eating.
Just remember, snacks and diet changes arent a long-term cure if its due to a health condition or medication. Work with your healthcare provider to find and resolve the true cause of your hypoglycemia.
What If The Signs Point To Prediabetes
Once your doctor diagnoses hypoglycemia, they will likely recommend taking steps to try to stop prediabetes from progressing into type 2 diabetes.
Alas, theres no fairy godmother who can wave her magic wand and transform your body chemistry. But you might be able to.
Making lifestyle changes can help you manage your weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
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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.