What Causes Low Blood Glucose
- Symptoms occur when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl a condition known as hypoglycemia.
- In most cases, low blood glucose results from overtreatment: Either taking too much diabetes medication or not eating enough food. Higher doses of medicine than the person actually requires can also lead to hypoglycemia.
- People who aim for too-low values on their A1C test tend to experience more frequent drops in blood glucose.
- Vigorous exercise doesn’t just burn calories, it also burns blood glucose! Hypoglycemia can occur unless blood glucose levels are carefully monitored during and after exercise.
- Not eating on a regular basis can deprive the body of glucose and make it difficult to prevent hypoglycemia. Eat balanced meals throughout the day and always keep a snack on hand.
What Causes A Low Blood Sugar Level
In people with diabetes, the main causes of a low blood sugar level are:
- the effects of medicine especially taking too much insulin, medicines called sulfonylureas , medicines called glinides , or some antiviral medicines to treat hepatitis C
- skipping or delaying a meal
- not eating enough carbohydrate foods in your last meal, such as bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes and fruit
- exercise, especially if it’s intense or unplanned
- drinking alcohol
Sometimes there’s no obvious reason why a low blood sugar level happens.
Very occasionally, it can happen in people who do not have diabetes.
Treating Diabetes And Mental Confusion Irrational Behavior
Just as it is for other effects of diabetes, prevention is the primary way to manage the behavioral effects of diabetes. Following the plan set by your doctor and, ideally, the diabetes care team is important. Regular blood sugar monitoring, proper nutrition, exercise, healthy weight maintenance, and stress management are crucial in controlling blood sugar levels. This, in turn, has a positive effect on the brain.
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Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar is common for people with type 1 diabetes and can occur in people with;type 2 diabetes;taking insulin or certain medications. The average person with;type 1 diabetes;may experience up to two episodes of mild low blood sugar each week, and thats only counting episodes with symptoms. If you add in lows without symptoms and the ones that happen overnight, the number would likely be higher.
The Dangers Of High Blood Glucose
Some of diabetesâ effects on the brain arenât obvious right away, especially when they are related to high blood sugar.
âWith diabetes, you have an increased risk of damage to blood vessels over time, including damage to the small blood vessels in the brain. This damage affects the brainâs white matter,â says Joseph C. Masdeu, MD, PhD, of the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute.
White matter is the part of the brain where nerves talk to one another. When the nerves in the brain are damaged, you can have changes in thinking called vascular cognitive impairment or vascular dementia.
Vascular cognitive impairment can happen with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but there are some differences in risk, says Joel Zonszein, MD, director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
âThe longer you have diabetes , the more of a chance there is of developing dementia, but we see much less of it in people with type 1 whose diabetes is well-controlled,â he says.
People with type 2 may face a double-whammy because they tend to have other problems that also can cause blood vessel damage.
âThese patients tend to be less metabolically fit overall, with low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure, and they are more likely to be obese,â Zonszein says.
Diabetes can combine with these other problems to create inflammation that damages blood vessels, so good diabetes control is all the more important, he says.
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Skipping Or Delaying A Meal
When you take insulin or a drug that increases the amount of insulin in your system, not eating enough food at the times the insulin or drug is working can cause hypoglycemia. Learning to balance food with insulin or oral drugs is key to achieving optimal blood glucose control while avoiding hypoglycemia.
Too Much Diabetes Medicine
If you take more than your prescribed dose of insulin or a secretagogue, there can be too much insulin circulating in your bloodstream, and hypoglycemia can occur. Changes in the timing of insulin or oral medicines can also cause hypoglycemia if your medicine and food plan are no longer properly matched.
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Immediate Treatment Of Hypoglycemia
The symptoms of hypoglycemia are relieved within minutes of consuming sugar in any form, such as candy, glucose tablets, or a sweet drink, such as a glass of fruit juice. People with recurring episodes of hypoglycemia, especially those with diabetes, often prefer to carry glucose tablets because the tablets take effect quickly and provide a consistent amount of sugar. These people may benefit from consuming sugar followed by a food that provides longer-lasting carbohydrates . When hypoglycemia is severe or prolonged and taking sugar by mouth is not possible, doctors quickly give glucose intravenously to prevent brain damage.
People who are known to be at risk of episodes of severe hypoglycemia may keep glucagon on hand for emergencies. Glucagon administration stimulates the liver to release large amounts of glucose. It is given by injection or by a new nasal inhaler and generally restores blood glucose to an adequate level within 5 to 15 minutes. Glucagon kits are easy to use, and family members can be trained to administer the glucagon.
Additional Causes Of Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia can also be caused by exaggerated insulin activity or an over-dose of oral insulin, which drives blood sugar too low.
On the flip side, hypoglycemia can be caused by the reduction of glycogenolysis. Glycogenolysis is the making of new sugar from stored glycogen that is then released into the bloodstream to maintain blood sugar).
Glucagon is the hormone that signals the liver to make sugar from glycogen stores in the liver.
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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.
Causes Of Diabetes And Irrational Behavior Mental Confusion
When someone without diabetes eats carbohydrates, the carbs are digested and transformed into glucose, the sugar that gives the entire body and brain energy. Glucose leaves the digestive system and enters the bloodstream to be delivered to the bodys cells. Glucose cant get into the cells on its own. Thats where insulin comes into the picture. An organ called the pancreas makes and releases insulin to unlock the cells and let glucose in.
In diabetes, this process goes awry. Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the immune system attacks the pancreas so it cant make insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body can make insulin, but it either doesnt make enough or it cant use its insulin efficiently. Either way, glucose remains in the bloodstream rather than entering cells of the body for fuel; consequently, blood sugar levels climb too high and cause problems.
Diabetes treatment involves manually regulating insulin and blood sugar. This is difficult, and sometimes blood sugar levels become off center. When theyre too high , too low , or remain in the normal range but swing up and down, blood sugar levels arent where they need to be for the brain to operate correctly. Irrational behavior and mental confusion can result.
These factors contribute to the development of hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, and unstable spikes and dips:
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Other Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
While low blood sugar is often associated with diabetes, it can also be affected by other factors. According to Dr. Danine Fruge, Medical Director of the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, Florida, the causes of blood sugar problems can include not only “diabetes, prediabetes , reactive hypoglycemia or other health issues, but also by not eating enough, taking too much insulin or even taking certain diabetes medications.”
Other medications can also cause hypoglycemia, like quinine, or Qualaquin, which is used to treat malaria, or various medications for kidney failure. Exercising more than usual can also cause it, especially while taking such medications.;
Some other potential causes for low blood sugar include:
- Heavy drinking without eating
- Eating without ingesting enough carbohydrates
- Eating fewer carbs than usual without reducing insulin amounts, or improper balancing of liquid/solid carbs and timing of insulin
- Hormone deficiencies due to adrenal or pituitary tumor disorders, or in children without sufficient growth hormone
- Long-term starvation, such as that which can occur with anorexia nervosa
- Serious illness like hepatitis, kidney disorders and liver disease
- Pancreatic tumors that make the body secrete too much insulin
Low Blood Sugar: Warning Signs Ways To Treat And When To Call The Doctor
Physicians explain how to tell when your blood sugar is dangerously low, and how to take action to prevent complications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, 34 million people living in the United States had diabetes in 2018 — and amazingly, 21% of adults with diabetes did not even know they had it. The scariest part is that, if left untreated, diabetes can be deadly — and, in fact, it was the seventh leading cause of death in the year 2017.;
And while normally associated with high blood sugar , diabetic folks can also experience hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, alongside its own bevy of problems — including more severe and/or long-term effects like seizures, loss of consciousness, dementia and even death. Further, according to the Mayo Clinic, hypoglycemia can also cause low blood sugar in folks without diabetes due to a variety of conditions and medications.
So, needless to say, it’s important to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. But how is this done, especially if you don’t know the first thing about blood sugar?
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How Common Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose is common among people with type 1 diabetes;and among people with type 2 diabetes;who take insulin;or some other diabetes medicines. In a large global study of people with diabetes who take insulin, 4 in 5 people with type 1 diabetes and nearly half of those with type 2 diabetes reported a low blood sugar event at least once over a 4-week period.2
Severely low blood glucose, defined as when your blood glucose level drops so low you cant treat it yourself, is less common. Among U.S. adults with diabetes who take insulin or some diabetes medicines that help the pancreas;release insulin into the blood, 2 in 100 may develop severely low blood glucose each year.3
Signs Of Low Blood Sugar
With hypoglycemia, the blood sugar falls below the normal, healthy levels mentioned earlier, which can occur for a variety of reasons.
“Although some people with blood sugar problems may not experience symptoms,” Dr. Aldasouqi continued, “there are some key things to look out for. For those with low blood sugar, someone might have symptoms like anxiety, sweating, increased heart rate, confusion, and may go into what is called ‘a hypoglycemic coma’… The term ‘diabetic coma’ is also used by some.”
Other symptoms of low blood sugar may include:
- Tingling or numb lips, tongue or cheek
- Blurry vision
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Slurred Speech And Clumsiness
Your sugar-starved brain may change the way you sound. Slurred speech is a common symptom associated with blood sugar levels that drop below 40 mg/dL, according to University of Michigan Health Systems. Combined with clumsiness another sign of low blood sugar ;you may seem as though you’ve had a few too many cocktails, even if you haven’t touched a drop, according to the National Health Service.
For more on managing low blood sugar, check out Diabetes Daily’s article “How to Treat Lows Without Sabotaging Your Diet!“
If A Person Is Unconscious
If a person loses consciousness;because of;severe hypoglycaemia, they need to be put into the;recovery position and given an injection of the hormone glucagon;. The injection will raise their blood glucose level.
The injection should be carried out by a friend or family member who knows what they’re doing, or by a trained healthcare professional.
You should dial 999 to request an ambulance if:
- a glucagon injection kit isn’t available
- there’s nobody available who’s trained to give the injection
- the injection is ineffective after 10 minutes
Never try to put food or drink into the mouth of someone who’s unconscious as;they could choke.
If you’re able to give a glucagon injection and the person regains consciousness, they should;eat some longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar or a sandwich.
You should continue to monitor the person for signs of recurring symptoms;in case they need to be treated again.
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Exercise Food And Alcohol
For people with type 1 diabetes, maintaining the correct blood glucose level involves balancing;how much;insulin you inject, the amount of food you eat, and how much energy you burn during exercise.
Hypoglycaemia may occur if you’ve taken your dose of insulin as usual, but your carbohydrate intake is lower than normal or has been used up more quickly. This may happen if you delay or miss a meal or snack, don’t eat enough carbohydrate, or exercise more than usual.
People with diabetes who’ve;drunk too much alcohol, or drank alcohol on an empty stomach, can also get hypoglycaemia.
However, it’s not always possible to identify why a particular episode of hypoglycaemia has occurred, and sometimes it happens for no obvious reason.
What Are The Complications Of Low Blood Glucose
Mild-to-moderate low blood glucose can be easily treated. But severely low blood glucose can cause serious complications, including passing out, coma, or death.
Repeated episodes of low blood glucose can lead to
- high blood glucose levels, if worry or fear of low blood glucose keeps you from taking the medicines you need to manage your diabetes8
- hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which you dont notice any symptoms of low blood glucose until your blood glucose level has dropped very low
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Treatment For Brain Fog With Diabetes
To treat brain fog due to diabetes, its important that your blood sugar levels are in target range as much as possible.
The goal is to avoid blood sugar fluctuations. This means keeping your blood sugar within a healthy range not too high and not too low.
If youre prescribed medication to treat diabetes, take your medication as instructed and dont skip doses.
Also, follow any dietary instructions your healthcare provider recommends. If you feel that your brain fog isnt improving, talk to them.
Your healthcare provider may need to adjust your medication. Also, it might help to speak with a registered dietitian for guidance on what foods to eat and what foods to avoid with diabetes.
Managing your diabetes is important because not managing your condition can lead to potentially life threatening complications.
It can cause:
Brain fog should improve as your blood sugar returns to a healthy level.
In the meantime, the following tips can help you cope with cognitive dysfunction.
How Can You Get Rid Of Diabetes Brain Fog
Nicole, founder of Brain Fog Boot Camp advises, âThe first step is to identify the biggest triggers for diet and lifestyle contributors to your brain fog including: large swings in your blood sugar, stress, nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep, hormonal imbalances, inflammation, gut dysfunction, and dehydration.
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How To Treat Someone Who’s Unconscious Or Very Sleepy
Follow these steps:
They may need to go to hospital if they’re being sick , or their blood sugar level drops again.
Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to lose consciousness.
Does Everyone Have Symptoms From Hypoglycemia
Some people dont have symptoms or dont notice them. Healthcare providers call that situation hypoglycemia unawareness. People with such a challenge arent aware when they need to do something about their blood sugar. Theyre then more likely to have severe episodes and need medical help. People with hypoglycemia unawareness should check their blood sugar more often.
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