A Low Blood Sugar Level Without Diabetes
A low blood sugar level is uncommon in people who do not have diabetes.
Possible causes include:
- a gastric bypass
- other medical conditions, such as problems with your hormone levels, pancreas, liver, kidneys, adrenal glands or heart
- some medicines, including quinine
See a GP if you think you keep getting symptoms of a low blood sugar level. They can arrange some simple tests to check if your blood sugar level is low and try to find out what’s causing it.
Signs & Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar
Keeping blood glucose levels in a healthy range can be challenging.
When the amount of sugar in your blood has dropped below your target range , it is called low blood sugar .
If your blood sugar has dropped, you may feel:
- shaky, light-headed, nauseated
- an increase in heart rate
- sweaty, headachy
- weak, drowsy
- numbness or tingling on your tongue or lips
Symptoms of very low blood sugar are more severe and can make you:
- confused and disoriented
- lose consciousness
- have a seizure
Make sure you always wear your MedicAlert® identification and talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about prevention and emergency treatment for severe low blood sugar.
What Causes Reactive Hypoglycemia
Reactive hypoglycemia comes from having too much insulin in your blood. It usually happens within a few hours after you eat. Other possible causes include:
- Having prediabetes or being more likely to have diabetes
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What Is The Outlook For People With Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia can be managed when you and your healthcare provider understand what causes your blood sugar to go down. Give your healthcare provider as much information as possible about any hypoglycemic episodes. Fixing the problem may be as simple as changing the times you take medication, eat and exercise. Minor changes to the types of food you eat may also help.
Low Blood Glucose During Sleep
Your blood glucose level can drop while you sleep and stay low for several hours, causing serious problems.7 Symptoms of low blood glucose while you sleep can include
- crying out or having nightmares
- sweating enough to make your pajamas or sheets damp
- feeling tired, irritable, or confused after waking up
Although you may not wake up or notice any symptoms, low blood glucose can interfere with your sleep, which may affect your quality of life, mood, and ability to work. Having low blood glucose during sleep can also make you less likely to notice and respond to symptoms of low blood glucose during the day.
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After You Have Low Blood Sugar
If your low blood sugar was mild , you can return to your normal activities once your blood sugar is back in its target range.
After you have low blood sugar, your early symptoms for low blood sugar are less noticeable for 48 to 72 hours. Be sure to check your blood sugar more often to keep it from getting too low again, especially before eating, physical activity, or driving a car.
If you used glucagon because of a severe low , immediately call your doctor for emergency medical treatment. If you have had lows several times close together , you should also tell you doctor. They may want to change your diabetes plan.
Take Medications As Prescribed
Certain diabetes medications can cause low blood sugar. The most common diabetes medications with a risk of hypoglycemia are insulin and sulfonylureas. Avoid changing your medication doses on your own, which might cause low blood sugar.
Insulin is the most effective medication at lowering blood sugar, which is why it comes with a risk of hypoglycemia.
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What Is High Blood Sugar
High blood sugar occurs when theres a buildup of excess glucose in the bloodstream. This is more often a concern for someone with diabetes than it is for someone without it. Our bodies are typically pretty great at keeping our blood sugar in perfect balance, Deena Adimoolam, M.D., assistant professor of endocrinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells SELF. But in some situations, like when a person has diabetes, high blood sugar can happen.
Blood sugar is measured in milligrams per deciliter , and a fasting blood sugar of greater than 125 mg/dL is considered hyperglycemic, the Cleveland Clinic says. A person can also be considered to have hyperglycemia if their blood glucose level is higher than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating, the Cleveland Clinic says.
Why Is It Important To Recognize A Low Blood Sugar Level
Low blood sugar levels can happen with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Low levels are more likely to happen if you use insulin. Hypoglycemia can cause you to have falls, accidents, and injuries. A blood sugar level that gets too low can lead to seizures, coma, and death. Learn to recognize the symptoms early so you can get treatment quickly.
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When To See A Doctor
If youre experiencing one or many of these symptoms enough for it to raise a mental red flag or affect your life , thats a sign that you should talk to a doctor about your concerns. An expert like a primary care provider can help determine if high blood sugar due to diabetes or prediabetes is the cause of your symptoms. Even if youre not sure thats exactly whats going on, its still worth having a conversation with your doctor about hyperglycemia and other possible causes behind your symptoms.
Treating Low Blood Sugar
You are at risk of having a low blood sugar reaction if you:
- Skip or delay a meal or snack
- Take too much insulin or eat too few carbohydrates
- Drink alcohol, especially without eating carbohydrates
Check your blood sugar if you have any of these symptoms:
- Weakness and/or fatigue
If your blood sugar is less than 70 milligrams per deciliter :
- Eat 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrate
- Wait 15 minutes and then recheck your blood sugar
- If your blood sugar is still less than 100 mg/dl, take another 15 grams of carbohydrate and retest your blood sugar in another 15 minutes. Repeat if necessary.
Important: If you have frequent low blood sugars speak to your doctor. You may need changes in your medication and/or meal plan.
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What Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose, also called low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below what is healthy for you. For many people with diabetes, this means a blood glucose reading lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter .1 Your number might be different, so check with your doctor or health care team to find out what blood glucose level is low for you.
Check Your Blood Sugar Often
Regularly checking your blood sugar level can help you keep it in your target range. If youve had low blood sugar episodes in the past, you may want to check your blood sugar levels before driving or operating machinery.
Talk with your doctor about when and how often you should check your blood sugar.
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What Should You Do In An Emergency
If mild or moderate hypoglycemia isn’t treated right away, it can turn into severe hypoglycemia. People with severe hypoglycemia usually pass out. If you pass out, someone should 911 right away.
If you have a health problem that tends to cause low blood sugar, it’s a good idea to teach your family, friends, and coworkers about what symptoms to watch for and what to do. You may also want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
What Is Normal Blood Sugar
When we eat, glucose — which is our body’s main source of energy — enters our bloodstream from our food. Then our pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin in just the right amount to help the glucose go from the bloodstream to our body’s various cells to be used as energy. This process usually keeps the glucose in our bloodstream in a healthy range, being neither too high, nor too low.
This range is measured in milligrams of blood glucose per deciliter, or mg/dL. Dr. Saleh Aldasouqi, Chief of Endocrinology at Michigan State University, explains to CNET: “Normal blood sugar is defined as anywhere from 70 to 110 mg/dL within a healthy physiology, as a person without diabetes or other related diagnosed condition. Sugar below 70 is generally considered low, and above 110 is considered high .”
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What If I Have Severe Low Blood Glucose And Cant Treat Myself
Glucagona hormone that raises blood glucose levelsis the best way to treat severely low blood glucose. Available as an injection or a nasal spray, glucagon will quickly raise your blood glucose level. Your doctor can prescribe you a glucagon kit for use in case of an emergency.
If your blood glucose level drops very low, you wont be able to treat it by yourself. Be prepared to address severely low blood glucose by
- talking with your doctor or health care team about when and how to use a glucagon emergency kit. If you have an emergency kit, regularly check the date on the package to make sure it hasnt expired.
- teaching your family, friends, and coworkers when and how to give you glucagon. Tell them to call 911 right away after giving you glucagon or if you dont have a glucagon emergency kit with you.
- wearing a medical alert identification bracelet or pendant. A medical alert ID tells other people that you have diabetes and need care right away. Getting prompt care can help prevent the serious problems that low blood glucose levels can cause.
What Can Cause Low Blood Sugar Levels
Some things that can make low blood sugar levels more likely are:
- skipping meals and snacks
- not eating enough food during a meal or snack
- exercising longer or harder than usual without eating some extra food
- getting too much insulin
- not timing the insulin doses properly with meals, snacks, and exercise
Also, some things may increase how quickly insulin gets absorbed into the bloodstream and can make hypoglycemia more likely. These include:
- taking a hot shower or bath right after having an insulin injection increases blood flow through the blood vessels in the skin, which can make the insulin be absorbed more quickly than usual
- injecting the shot into a muscle instead of the fatty layer under the skin
- injecting the insulin into a part of the body used a lot in a particular sport .
All of these situations increase the chances that a person may get hypoglycemia.
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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.
What Are Low Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin levels primarily influence your blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that helps blood sugar enter your cells from your bloodstream. Too much insulin can cause low blood sugar.
A normal blood sugar range is between 70 and 140 mg/dL. It can become problematic if your blood glucose level consistently falls above or below this range.
A low blood sugar level is defined as being less than 70 mg/dL. Having low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. You might not feel symptoms of a low blood sugar level until it falls below that threshold, or you might feel symptoms at a slightly higher blood sugar level.
When you feel low blood sugar symptoms will depend on several factors such as how long youve had diabetes, your normal blood glucose level, history of low blood glucose, and more.
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Preventing Low Blood Sugar
Preventing low blood sugar is better than having to treat it. Always have a source of fast-acting sugar with you.
- When you exercise, check your blood sugar levels. Make sure you have snacks with you.
- Talk to your provider about reducing insulin doses on days that you exercise.
- Ask your provider if you need a bedtime snack to prevent low blood sugar overnight. Protein snacks may be best.
DO NOT drink alcohol without eating food. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day and men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. Family and friends should know how to help. They should know:
- The symptoms of low blood sugar and how to tell if you have them.
- How much and what kind of food they should give you.
- When to call for emergency help.
- How to inject glucagon, a hormone that increases your blood sugar. Your provider will tell you when to use this medicine.
If you have diabetes, always wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This helps emergency medical workers know you have diabetes.
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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Be Ready To Treat Low Blood Sugar
Mild low blood sugar can be treated with fruit juice, glucose tablets, and hard candies. If youre prone to low blood sugar or take insulin, keep these things on hand at home, in your car, at work, and while out exercising.
More severe low blood sugar is treated with a glucagon injection. Glucagon is a hormone that helps raise your blood sugar. You need a prescription for glucagon, which is an injectable medication.
S For Treating A Person With Symptoms Keeping Them From Being Able To Treat Themselves
Dont hesitate to call 911. If someone is unconscious and glucagon is not available or someone does not know how to use it, call 911 immediately.
- Inject insulin
- Provide food or fluids
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What Should My Blood Sugar Levels Be
Your blood sugar level changes depending on what you’ve eaten, whether you’ve exercised and other factors but we have some general guidelines to determine what levels are healthy.
For generally healthy individuals who haven’t eaten for eight hours or more, a normal blood sugar level is between 70-99 mg/dL. When you’ve eaten in the past two hours, it should be no higher than 140 mg/dL. To refresh your chemistry knowledge, that unit is milligrams per deciliter and it’s measuring the amount of glucose present in your blood.
Only a medical professional can diagnose diabetes or another issue with your blood sugar, so if you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels, check with a doctor.