Low Blood Sugar Level Causes
Most low blood sugar level causes are preventable and are caused due to a persons lifestyle and diet habits. Low blood sugar is common among diabetic patients who take medications to increase insulin levels.
All of the above causes are risk factors that may or may not be able to be inhibited. They are important to be aware of and act accordingly to keep yourself from getting a too high or too low blood sugar level.
If a person has medical, lifestyle or diet habits that cause irregular blood sugar levels, symptoms will begin to develop along with the drop or spike in blood sugar, and are as follows:
How Can I Check My Blood Sugar
Use a blood sugar meter or a continuous glucose monitor to check your blood sugar. A blood sugar meter measures the amount of sugar in a small sample of blood, usually from your fingertip. A CGM uses a sensor inserted under the skin to measure your blood sugar every few minutes. If you use a CGM, youll still need to test daily with a blood sugar meter to make sure your CGM readings are accurate.
How To Do A Finger
Your healthcare team will show you how to do it the first time, but these are the key steps:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dont use wet wipes as the glycerine in them can affect the test result. Make sure your hands are warm so its easier to get blood and wont hurt as much.
- Take a test strip and slot it into the meter to turn it on. Some meters will have tests strips built in.
- Remove the cap from your finger prick device and put in a new lancet. Then put the cap back on and set the device by pulling or clicking the plunger.
- Choose which finger to prick but avoid your thumb or index finger . And dont prick the middle, or too close to a nail. Place the device against the side of your finger and press the plunger. Use a different finger each time and a different area.
- Take your meter with the test strip and hold it against the drop of blood. Itll tell you if the test strip is filled, usually by beeping.
- Before you look at your reading, check your finger. Use a tissue to stop bleeding, then use it to take out the lancet and throw it away in your sharps bin.
- You can use the same tissue to take out the test strip and throw that away too. Taking out the strip will usually turn the meter off.
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How Often Should I Check My Blood Sugar
The number of times that you check your blood sugar will depend on the type of diabetes that you have and the type of medicine you take to treat your diabetes. For example, people who take insulin may need to check more often than people who do not take insulin. Talk with your health care team about how often to check your blood sugar.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up , before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime. Talk with your health care team about what times are best for you to check your blood sugar.
What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels
You might want to measure your blood sugar before meals to get a baseline, and then two hours after your meal to measure your normal blood sugar level. Your doctor might also suggest measuring blood sugar before bed to be sure you have been eating well throughout the day and can go to sleep with peace of mind.
These are considered within the range of normal:
- Less than 140 mg/dl if you do not have diabetes.
- Less than 180 mg/dl if you have diabetes.
Tools And Supplies Needed To Check Blood Sugar
There are a few different supplies needed to safely and accurately test blood sugar.
Your blood sugar testing kit probably came with control solution as well. This is not needed for actual testing, but rather for ensuring glucose meter accuracy. By checking your glucose meter with control solution, you can be sure that your results are reliable. Using control solution to check the first test strip in every new bottle of strips will provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you can trust your supplies to be accurate!
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What Is The Future Of Blood Sugar Testing
Even though you can monitor blood sugar level with glucometers and CGMs, the future might provide additional ways to manage your diabetes.
- Multiple waves: Researchers have been studying and experimenting with new technologies. For example, some adults with type 2 diabetes in Europe have access to a device that can measure blood sugar using ultrasonic, electromagnet, and thermal waves.
- Radio waves: Other advances on the horizon involve using radio waves to measure blood sugar .
- Tears: Additionally, some researchers are working on a sensor to monitor blood sugar under the lower eyelid . It works by measuring the sugar level of tear fluid.
- Contacts and lasers: Other future technologies might possibly include using a smart contact lens to measure blood sugar, as well as laser technology.
How To Check Blood Sugar Without A Meter
Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body either doesnt make enough insulin or doesnt use insulin properly or both. This can lead to a higher than normal blood sugar level.
Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to complications, such as:
- heart disease
- nerve damage
For these reasons, its important to monitor your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Prior to using meters, people with diabetes would monitor their blood sugar by testing their urine. This method, however, wasnt as accurate, nor did it provide real-time results.
If you self-test your blood sugar several times a day using a glucometer, or meter, it requires that you prick your finger to draw blood to test. Due to the discomfort of this method, you might look for a way to monitor your level without this tool.
If finger pricks are very bothersome for you, dont worry theres hope. Advances in blood sugar monitoring technology could mean no more finger pricks in the future.
If you have diabetes, there are several portable devices you can use to check your blood sugar level and not all of them require a finger prick.
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How Can I Treat Low Blood Sugar
If youve had low blood sugar without feeling or noticing symptoms , you may need to check your blood sugar more often to see if its low and treat it. Driving with low blood sugar can be dangerous, so be sure to check your blood sugar before you get behind the wheel.
Carry supplies for treating low blood sugar with you. If you feel shaky, sweaty, or very hungry or have other symptoms, check your blood sugar. Even if you dont have symptoms but think you may have low blood sugar, check it. If your blood sugar is lower than 70 mg/dL, do one of the following immediately:
- Take four glucose tablets.
- Drink four ounces of fruit juice.
- Drink four ounces of regular soda, not diet soda.
- Eat four pieces of hard candy.
Wait for 15 minutes and then check your blood sugar again. Do one of the above treatments again until your blood sugar is 70 mg/dL or above and eat a snack if your next meal is an hour or more away. If you have problems with low blood sugar, ask your doctor if your treatment plan needs to be changed.
What Should I Do If My Blood Sugar Gets Too Low
Low blood sugar is also called hypoglycemia . It means your blood sugar level drops below 70. Having low blood sugar is dangerous and needs to be treated right away. Anyone with diabetes can have low blood sugar. You have a greater chance of having low blood sugar if you take insulin or certain pills for diabetes.
Carry supplies for treating low blood sugar with you. If you feel shaky, sweaty, or very hungry, check your blood sugar. Even if you feel none of these things, but think you may have low blood sugar, check it.
If your meter shows that your blood sugar is lower than 70, do one of the following things right away:
- chew 4 glucose tablets
- drink 4 ounces of fruit juice
- drink 4 ounces of regular soda, not diet soda or
- chew 4 pieces of hard candy
After taking one of these treatments, wait for 15 minutes, then check your blood sugar again. Repeat these steps until your blood sugar is 70 or above. After your blood sugar gets back up to 70 or more, eat a snack if your next meal is 1 hour or more away.
If you often have low blood sugar, check your blood sugar before driving and treat it if it is low.
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Blood Glucose Monitors: What Are My Options
There are many devices on the market that can help you check your blood glucose, but they generally fall into 2 categories:
Self-monitoring blood glucose devices. With SMBG devices, you test your blood sugar multiple times a day, each time pricking your finger and testing a drop of blood with a test strip. Many of these devices can store your results over time. Some newer ones even allow you to send your results to your smartphone through an app. Popular SMBG devices include OneTouch Ultra 2, Coaguchek XS, and Contour Next.
Continuous glucose monitoring devices. In contrast to SMBG devices, CGM devices measure your blood sugar at regular intervals throughout the day. Popular CGM devices include Freestyle Libre 14 day, Dexcom G6, and Medtronic Guardian Sensor 3. These tend to be newer than SMBG devices and feature an adhesive patch with a small microneedle sensor that you attach to your skin . The sensor measures your blood sugar and sends your results to an app on your smartphone or another device you carry around with you. Some CGM devices come attached to insulin pumps that give you insulin when your blood sugar is high.
Which Is Right For You
Finding the best glucose monitoring system that is right for you is about finding the choice that best suits your needs. By considering the benefits and limitations between the different systems that are available in Canada, you can find a system that meets your individual requirements while improving the efficiency and effectiveness of your diabetes care routine.
Our glucose monitoring comparison chart provides a summary of CGM, Flash glucose monitoring devices and test strips and meters.
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How Do I Use A Blood Glucose Monitor
If your device is new to you, ask your healthcare provider to show you how to set it up and use it. Below are some basic guidelines.
Self-monitoring blood glucose devices
SMBG devices come with the same general instructions. To use one properly, youll need a few supplies:
The SMGB device that your provider prescribed to you
A corresponding test strip
A sharps container for when you dispose of your lancet
Start with washing your hands with soap and water. Allow your hands to air dry. Then, wipe the finger you will draw blood from with an alcohol wipe to prevent an infection.
After that, prick the tip of your finger with a lancet to draw a little bloodand dont forget to safely dispose of your lancet in your sharps container. The center of your finger has more nerve endings than the sides, so pricking the side of your finger might be less painful. Also note that each monitor may need a different amount of blood. Be sure to read the manual for details.
Once youve inserted a new test strip into your monitor, touch the appropriate edge of the test strip to your blood and wait as your device reads the sample and displays your results.
Continuous glucose monitoring devices
The setup process for CGM devices will differ depending on which one you are prescribed. For the best results, have your provider or pharmacist show you how to set it up.
Why Is It Important To Measure Your A1c
Since elevated blood sugars can lead to a number of short- and long-term complications, its advisable to keep an eye on your A1C and ensure that its held at a healthy level.
If you find that your blood sugars are increasing above your target, there are several things you can do to reduce them, such as discussing adjusting your medication with your doctor, changing your diet, and making lifestyle changes
You can read our complete guide to lowering your A1C for more information.
Since the A1C tests give you a picture of your blood sugar level for the last 3 months, it makes sense to have your A1C measured at least every 3 months to keep track of how your blood sugars are progressing.
It the test is used for a diabetes diagnosis, you might have to also have your fasting blood sugar and antibody levels measured to determine which type of diabetes you live with, such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
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Recommended Blood Sugar Targets For Most People With Diabetes*
Your targets may not be the same as the examples in this chart. Your targets are important and should be specific to you.
|4.0 to 7.0||5.0 to 10.0|
* This information is based on the Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada and is a guide.** A1C is a measurement of your average blood sugar control for the last two to three months and approximately 50 per cent of the value comes from the last 30 days.
What Is An A1c Test
The A1C test is a blood test that reflects your average blood glucose over the last 3 months. It is reported as a percentage and people who dont live with diabetes generally have an A1C below 5.7%.
That means that an A1C test can be a good starting point for a diabetes diagnosis as well as an indicator of whether your diabetes management approach is successful.
The American Diabetes Association has established the following A1C guidelines for using the test as part of a diabetes diagnosis:
A1C targets for people living with diabetes should be tailored to the individual, but generally, an A1C of 7% or lower is recommended. An A1C of 7% translates to an average blood sugar of around 154 mg/dl .
Some people living with diabetes strive for A1C levels below 5.7%, but aiming for a very low A1C is not always advisable, especially if its achieved through an excessive amount of hypoglycemia .
Discuss your target A1C with your doctor and remember that it can always be adjusted up or down depending on whats appropriate for you.
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How Frequently Should I Measure My Blood Sugar
The Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong advises you to measure your 2-4 times per week at various times during the day . You should monitor your blood sugar more often if:
Why Check Blood Sugar Levels
If you take certain medication, like insulin or sulphonylureas, checking your blood sugars is a vital part of living with diabetes. It can help you work out when you need to take more medication, when you need to eat something or for when you want to get up and move around more.
Routine checks can help you know when you might be starting to go too low or too high . Its a way of getting to know your body and how it works. It can help you and your healthcare team spot patterns too. Do you write your results down? You might find that helpful.
But importantly, it will help you stay healthy and prevent serious diabetes complications now and in the future. By complications, we mean serious problems in places like your feet and your eyes. This happens because too much sugar in the blood damages your blood vessels, making it harder for blood to flow around your body. This can lead to very serious problems like sight loss and needing an amputation.
The higher your blood sugar levels are and the longer theyre high for, the more at risk you are.
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