Causes Symptoms Diagnosis Treatments And Support
With Elena Christofides and Jennifer Shine Dyer MD, MPH
When youre diabetic, a severe drop in blood sugar can strike even when youre doing everything right. Glucose is your bodys main source of energy and fuels your brain, so its critical to recognize the early signs of an episode before it becomes severe enough to cause you to pass out or worse. Were here to empower you with clear answers to all your pressing Qs.
Definition | Causes | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatments | Complications | Fast Facts | Support
How Can I Stop My Blood Sugar From Crashing
Here are a few ways to avoid hypoglycemic episodes:
- Get in the habit of self-monitoring your blood glucose. Keeping track of when your blood sugar drops can help you recognize aspects of your routine that may be contributing to your hypoglycemia. Dr. Klonoff recommends a continuous glucose monitor. Its the best tool for automatically checking your blood glucose levels around the clock, he says.
- Change your meal plan. When, what, how much, and how often you eat all play a big part in your blood glucose levels. A dietitian can teach you about healthy, well-balanced food choices that will make it easier for you to maintain an acceptable blood sugar range.
- Keep a stash of glucose tablets on hand. With your doctor’s recommendation, make sure you always have glucose tablets with you. You can stick them in your briefcase, purse, car, desk, school locker, etc. You may also want to keep snacks nearbyfor example, cheese or peanut butter crackers, although doctors suggest over-the-counter glucose tablets for more accurate dosage. Do not eat a healthy sugar-free candy bar during hypoglycemia, warns Dr. Klonoff. Its lack of sugar means that it will not raise your blood glucose level sufficiently when you want it to.
- Certain drinks can help get your blood sugar up as well. Try 8 oz. of fruit juice, a soft drink , or a cup of milk.
Treating Severely Low Blood Sugar
Blood sugar below 55 mg/dL is considered severely low. You wont be able to treat it using the 15-15 rule. You also may not be able to check your own blood sugar or treat it by yourself, depending on your symptoms. Make sure your family members, friends, and caregivers know your signs of low blood sugar so they can help treat it if needed.
Injectable glucagon is the best way to treat severely low blood sugar. A glucagon kit is available by prescription. Speak with your doctor to see if you should have a kit. Be sure to learn how and when to use it. Let family members and others close to you know where you keep the glucagon kit and make sure theyve been trained in how to use it too.
Its important to contact a doctor for emergency medical treatment immediately after receiving a glucagon injection. If a person faints due to severely low blood sugar, theyll usually wake up within 15 minutes after a glucagon injection. If they dont wake up within 15 minutes after the injection, they should receive one more dose. When the person is awake and able to swallow:
- Feed the person a fast-acting source of sugar .
- Then, have them eat a long-acting source of sugar .
Its also important that friends, family, co-workers, teachers, coaches, and other people you may be around often know how to test your blood sugar and treat severely low blood sugar before it happens.
If any of the following happens, your friend, relative, or helper should call 911:
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How To Recognize Hypoglycemia
The first signs of hypoglycemia include feeling sweaty, shaky, and hungry. However, not everyone has these symptoms or notices them in time to prevent low blood sugar from getting worse. Its also important to know that your symptoms of hypoglycemia will change the longer you have T1D.
As hypoglycemia gets worse, symptoms can include:
- Feeling weak
- Having difficulty walking or seeing clearly
- Acting strange or getting disoriented
- Having seizures
Severe hypoglycemia may make you faint or pass out. This is dangerous if you are driving, climbing stairs, or doing other activities where you need to stay aware of things around you.
Hypoglycemia can happen at night. If it does, you are likely to wake up, but its important not to rely on your body to wake you up. A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, can alert you and those around you with an alarm to let you know if your blood sugar starts getting low while you are sleeping.
Its a good idea to check your blood sugar often when lows are likely, such as in hot weather or when you travel. Your CGM can also let you know when your blood sugar is getting lower.
Watch out for hypoglycemia unawareness.
You might not have early warning signs of low blood sugar. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness, and it raises the risk of having severe lows. It is more likely if:
- You have had diabetes longer than 5 or 10 years
- You have frequent episodes of hypoglycemia
- You take certain medicines, such as beta blockers for high blood pressure
When Blood Sugar Is Too Low
Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat, and it’s also formed and stored inside the body. It’s the main source of energy for the cells of our body, and is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Our brains depend on glucose to function, even when we’re sleeping.
The is the amount of glucose in the blood. When these levels drop too low, it’s called hypoglycemia . Very low blood sugar levels can cause serious symptoms that need to be treated right away.
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What To Do When A Diabetic Passes Out
If you feel extreme high or low blood sugar signs or symptoms and think you might pass out, call 911 or your local emergency number. If youre with someone with diabetes who has passed out, call for emergency help, and be sure to let the emergency personnel know that the unconscious person has diabetes.
How Diabetic Coma Is Treated
Treating hyperglycemia requires intravenous fluids to improve fluid levels throughout your body. You may also receive insulin to help your cells absorb the extra circulating glucose. If your sodium, potassium, or phosphate levels are low, you may get supplements to help bring them up to healthy levels. The treatment will be similar for DKA.
A glucagon injection will help increase your blood sugar levels if youre experiencing hypoglycemia.
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Recovering From Diabetic Coma
Once your blood glucose levels are in a healthy range, you should start to feel better almost immediately. If youve been unconscious, you should come around soon after treatment begins.
If the symptoms occurred for a while before treatment or if you were in a diabetic coma for several hours or longer, you could experience some brain damage. An untreated diabetic coma may also result in death.
People who receive emergency treatment for a diabetic coma usually recover fully. Your doctor may recommend that you wear a medical identification bracelet that explains the nature of your diabetes and other health concerns. This may help ensure you get the proper treatment for future problems quickly.
If you experience a diabetic coma without knowing you have diabetes, your doctor will work with you to develop a diabetes treatment plan. This will include medications, as well as recommendations for diet and exercise.
Where Can I Find Support
The Hypoglycemia Support Foundation, established nearly 40 years ago, is a national group that offers many resources, including advocacy. They offer salons so that you can personally connect with people like you who are also dealing with bouts of low blood sugar.
Occasionally blood sugar crashes are so extreme they require emergency room care for an immediate dextrose IV treatment. If you have diabetes, wear a medical bracelet that does TK thing? What will this bracelet have on it? A number of one of your contacts? Can you answer and smooth out with this line? have a circle of people who serve as close contacts and are aware of your condition and how to help.
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When To Talk To Your Doctor About Prediabetes
You can have prediabetes for years but have no clear symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes show up. Its important to talk to your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have any of the risk factors for prediabetes, which include:
Diabetes Type And Hypoglycemia Risk
Hypoglycemia risk varies across the three different types of diabetes:
Type 1 DiabetesPeople with type 1 diabetes experience hypoglycemia most often, as their diabetes management often requires a lot of attention and careful planning. The average person with type 1 diabetes who is attempting aggressive disease control may still experience low blood sugar symptoms frequently, and a full-blown case of hypoglycemia will require close medical attention.
“When it comes to type 1 diabetes, the body can’t make insulin on its own, so it must be administered,” notes Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, Everyday Health contributor and author of Belly Fat for Dummies. Paying close attention to your diet is important, too. “If the correct amount of insulin is given based on the amount of carbohydrates consumed, blood sugar levels can remain in a healthy range.”
Type 2 Diabetes These patients experience hypoglycemia less frequently than people with type 1 diabetes the rate of hypoglycemia for type 2 diabetes patients taking insulin is about one-third that of type 1 diabetes patients. But research shows that the frequency of hypoglycemia in people with type 2 diabetes increases as the disease becomes more advanced.
“In people with type 2 diabetes, the body may produce adequate insulin, yet the cells are resistant to it, making the insulin ineffective at transferring blood glucose into the cells to be used as energy,” says Palinski-Wade.
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What Do Businesses Have To Do For Diabetic People
If you work in an organisation with 20 or more people, the likelihood is one of them is diabetic.
Under UK employment law, diabetes counts as a disability, because is has a substantial and long-term negative effect. That means workplaces have to make reasonable adjustments to make sure the environment is safe and the diabetic person can carry out their job.
That might mean letting someone have snack breaks whenever they need them, or letting them eat at their desk. It could mean keeping glucose gel and sugary snacks on hand. It could also mean providing a space for someone to do their injections or check their blood sugar levels, or providing a sharps box for the safe disposal of needles.
Almost certainly it will mean employers will have to give a diabetic person more time off for the regular medical appointments they will need to keep on top of their condition.
Employers should also be aware that living with diabetes is hard. And that means it can also cause stress, anxiety and depression. 3 in 5 diabetics in the UK suffer from mental health problems.
What To Do If A Diabetic Is Unresponsive
4.7/5Learn first aid for someone who is having a diabetic emergency
Hypoglycemia happens when blood sugar levels are too low, usually below 70 milligrams per deciliter . Without treatment, such low levels of blood sugar can lead to seizures and become life-threatening. It is a medical emergency.
Subsequently, question is, how do you treat unconscious diabetes? If you are familiar with diabetes care, test the unconscious person’s blood sugar and follow these steps: If the blood sugar level is lower than 70 mg/dL , give the person an injection of glucagon. Do not try to give fluids to drink and do not give insulin to someone with low blood sugar.
Also asked, can a person recover from a diabetic coma?
If the symptoms occurred for a while before treatment or if you were in a diabetic coma for several hours or longer, you could experience some brain damage. An untreated diabetic coma may also result in death. People who get emergency treatment for a diabetic coma usually recover fully.
What are the final stages of diabetes?
Still, it’s important that, as a family caregiver, you know the signs and symptoms of diabetes at the end-of-life, as well as what complications may arise.Signs of high blood glucose include:
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How Is Type 1 Diabetes Managed
People with type 1 diabetes will need to learn to manage their blood sugar and insulin. That usually means injecting insulin every day, and regularly checking your own blood sugar levels.
The problem is that different things in your day will affect your blood sugar and therefore how much insulin you need. Its not just about what you eat. A stressful day at work can make your blood sugar rise with your adrenaline, as can illness and exercise. A late night, a late lunch, or extreme hot or cold can all make blood sugar fall.
Other treatments for type 1 diabetes include insulin pumps, small electronic devices which deliver insulin throughout the day through a tiny tube just under your skin. You may also be able to get an islet transplant, which replaces the insulin-producing islet cells in your pancreas with donor islet cells.
What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis
If your body cant use sugar for energy it starts to store fat instead, which releases chemicals called ketones. These can build up and make your blood acidic – and that can be serious if its not treated. It can cause people to go into a coma.
Look out for the usual diabetes symptoms, stomach pain, sickness, passing out, and sweet or fruity-smelling breath.
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How To Prevent And Treat Diabetic Comas
First, the good news: If youre aware of the warning signs for low and high blood sugar, you are that much ahead of the curve in preventing a diabetes-related coma. Typically one of the biggest risk factors for developing a coma is having HHS. When someone has HHS, blood sugar levels top 600 mg/dL. Approximately 25 to 50 percent of those who have HHS develop a coma. Left untreated, a diabetic coma can be fatal, according to the Mayo Clinic.
While thinking about a diabetes-related coma is scary, the most effective way to avoid such a dire medical condition is to take specific steps to prevent it. The warning signs outlined above for low and high blood sugar are the same symptoms you should pay attention to and seek medical treatment for in order to prevent a diabetes-related coma.
If you continue to feel extremely high or low blood sugar signs or think you might pass out, call 911 or your local emergency number, per the Mayo Clinic. If your loved one passes out, call for help, and ensure you tell first responders that your friend or a family member has diabetes.
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.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia tends to present as a cluster of symptoms, and they often occur together. The most common signs of dangerously low blood sugar include:
- Dizziness, disorientation, light-headedness, and an inability to think clearly
- Hunger, especially if youve just eaten
- Heightened irritability, confusion, and anxiety
- Clamminess and sweating, with cold hands and feet
- Drastic mood swings
If you have one or more of these symptoms contact your doctor.
What To Do In An Emergency
A diabetic emergency happens when symptoms relating to diabetes overwhelm the body.
At this point, home treatment is unlikely to help, and delaying medical care could cause permanent damage or death.
Some of the signs that can indicate a serious problem include:
- chest pain that radiates down the arm
- difficulty breathing
- a severe headache and weakness in one side of the body
- loss of consciousness
If there are signs of an emergency, the person should go to the emergency room, or they or someone with them should call 911 immediately.
Without rapid help, some diabetic emergencies can be life-threatening.
It is not always possible to prevent an emergency, but being able to recognize the signs can improve the chances of early treatment and a full recovery.
Strategies that can help to reduce the risk of an emergency include:
Following the treatment plan: Use medications as a doctor prescribes and keep in touch with the healthcare team. If a person cannot remember whether or not they took their last dose of drugs, they should ask a doctor before taking a further dose. This can help to prevent hypoglycemia. Anyone who notices a change in their symptoms should see a doctor.
Eating healthful, balanced, regular meals: People who use insulin or other medications that lower blood glucose should ask their doctor about what foods to eat, how much, and when, in order to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Small, frequent meals are better than fewer larger meals.
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