What you need to know about Hypoglycemia
Understanding blood sugar levels and how it affects your body is very important. Regular checking of your blood sugar and knowing the signs of blood sugar that is too high or low can help you take action quickly. The goal is to help keep you safe and ensure your glucose levels are in range. In this article, we'll look at what hypoglycemia is and its symptoms.
Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood glucose drops too low. The body responds to low blood glucose with warning signs that may be different from one person to another.
Some warnings signs of low blood glucose include feeling:
- Irritable or confused
Low blood glucose may occur if your meal or snack is delayed or missed. It can also happen after vigorous physical activity, or if too much insulin is given.
In a person not living with diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin when the blood glucose level falls below normal. With diabetes, insulin is put into the body through injections or a pump. Sometimes, insulin can be mistakenly used when blood sugar is already low. It keeps working even if the blood glucose levels are low or dropping.
With type 2 diabetes, some diabetes medications cause the body to make more insulin. If you take these medications without eating food, you can also have low blood glucose. If you’re not sure about whether your medication may cause these types of feelings, check with your healthcare provider. They can go through the medication with you so that you understand their effects.
What causes low blood glucose levels?
- Not following your meal plan like skipping or delaying a meal.
- Too much exercise or exercising for a long time without eating a snack.
- Adjusting your insulin before exercise.
- Too much medication or a change in the time you take your medication.
- Side effects from other medications.
- Alcohol intake, especially without food.
How to treat low blood glucose
- If you feel any of the warning signs of low blood glucose, test immediately. In the event that you do not have a blood glucose meter, treat right away.
- Eat or drink fast-acting sugar such as:
Wait 10-15 minutes, check your blood glucose. If it is still low (less than 4.0 mmol/L):
- Treat again with one of the fast-acting sugar mentioned above.
- If your next meal is more than 1 hour away, eat a snack such as a sandwich or crackers and cheese.
Afterward, try to work out why your blood glucose went low. Identifying the reasons behind it can help you avoid it from happening again.
Why monitoring blood glucose levels
If untreated, hypoglycemia can cause serious effects, such as seizures or fainting.
Understanding why you might experience it can help you avoid potentially dangerous situations. Someone who is having seizures or who has passed out will need help from others. Reaching this severe stage of hypoglycemia will require fast treatment. Glucagon injections are used to treat hypoglycemia in situations like this. However, a doctor must prescribe glucagon and show you and your loved ones how to prepare and inject it.
Regular testing may help you avoid hypoglycemia. It is important to check your blood glucose often. Identifying and maintaining target levels of your glycemia will help you avoid spikes and drops in your blood glucose.
1International Diabetes Federation (2020). Hypoglycaemia. Retrieved from: https://www.idf.org/our-activities/care-prevention/hypoglycaemia.html. Accessed May 31 2021.
2 Diabetes Canada (2018). Lows & Highs: Blood Glucose Levels. Retrieved from: https://www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/healthy-living-resources/blood-glucose-insulin/lows-highs-blood-glucose-levels. Accessed May 31 2021.
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