Low Blood Sugar Levels In Diabetes
People with diabetes can have low blood sugar levels because of the medicines they have to take to manage their diabetes. They may need a hormone called or diabetes pills to help their bodies use the sugar in their blood.
These medicines help take the sugar out of the blood and get it into the body’s cells, which makes the blood sugar level go down. But sometimes it’s a tricky balancing act and blood sugar levels can get too low.
People with diabetes need to keep their blood sugars from getting too highor too low. Keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range means balancing when and what they eat, and when they exercise with when they take medicines.
Listen To Your Doctor
If you follow a meal plan or take medications that increase insulin to manage low blood sugar, its important to stick to the plan your doctor prescribed to help prevent drops in your blood sugar level.
Not eating the right foods or taking the right medications at the correct times can cause your blood sugar to drop. Check in often with your doctor so they can adjust your treatment plan if and when necessary.
What Does Blood Transfusion Do To The Body
Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body. Blood transfusions replace blood that is lost through surgery or injury or provide it if your body is not making blood properly. You may need a blood transfusion if you have anemia, sickle cell disease, a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia, or cancer.
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Checking For Low Blood Sugar Levels
The warning signs of hypoglycemia are the body’s natural response to low blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels fall too low, the body releases the hormone adrenaline, which helps get stored glucose into the bloodstream quickly. This can make someone:
- have an increased heart rate
If the hypoglycemia isn’t treated, more serious symptoms may happen, such as drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
The only way to know for sure if you’re having a low blood sugar level is to test. Blood sugar levels can be tested with a . This computerized device measures and displays the amount of glucose in a blood sample. But if you can’t quickly check your blood sugar level, it’s important to treat yourself for hypoglycemia immediately to prevent symptoms from getting worse.
Sometimes a person with diabetes may have symptoms of low blood sugar levels, but blood sugar levels are not actually low. This is a called a false reaction. The hormone adrenaline is not just released when blood sugar drops too low it’s also released when blood sugar levels fall quickly when they’re too high. If you’re having a false reaction, you might actually have blood sugar levels in a healthy range but feel as if you have low blood sugar. Testing blood sugar levels before treating yourself for hypoglycemia can help you figure out if you’re having a false reaction.
Treating Someone Having A Seizure
Follow these steps if someone has a seizure due to low blood sugar:
Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to have a seizure.
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How Do I Know It’s Low Blood Sugar
To know if you’re suffering from hypoglycemia, you’ll need to begin tracking your glucose levels under the supervision of your doctor. Drugstores and pharmacies carry test strips, as well as glucose meters, which will help. You can even see the effect that different foods have on your body by checking your blood sugar after eating.
How To Raise Low Blood Sugar
If you are having symptoms of low blood sugar and have diabetes, you should test your blood glucose levels. If low levels are confirmed, you should treat it right away to prevent symptoms from becoming worse.
Blood sugar can be treated, or brought back to normal levels, by ingesting rapid-acting carbohydrates. The recommended treatment approach is the 15-15 rule.
First, ingest 15g of carbohydrates that contain glucose. Options include:
- Three to four glucose tablets
- 4oz of any fruit juice or regular soda
- Five to six pieces of hard candy
- 1tbsp of honey, sugar, or jelly
Avoid choices that are high in fat, such as chocolate or candies with nuts. These types of carbohydrates may not be metabolized as quickly and can take longer to bring blood sugar up to safe levels.
Re-test your blood sugar levels 15 minutes after you take in the carbohydrates. If your blood sugar has not gone up, the treatment should be repeated. Not everyone may need 15g of carbohydrates to stabilize their levels. For example, children may need fewer carbohydrates. Talk with a healthcare provider to figure out how much you need ingest to raise your levels.
Once blood sugar is trending up, eat a meal or snack that contains a complex carbohydrate, protein, and fat to make sure levels dont fall again. For example, eat a sandwich on whole grain bread made with nut butter, cheese, or a protein source like chicken. If you are on-the-go, you may choose to grab a yogurt, nuts, and fruit or a meal-replacement bar.
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Protein Reduces Sugar Cravings: The Dopamine Connection
MELANIE: Yeah. At each meal and snack. So when you’re eating those should always be included because I like to explain the nerdy science behind it and it’s truly, for me, it’s fascinating. So let’s just back up to what’s going on biochemically with someone who eats sugar or drinks sugary beverage. Sugar actually lights up and stimulates the addictive centers of the brain, which is also known as the pleasure and reward center. Enough said right there.
If you’re someone who can’t stop with just one and that’s me. You can’t stop with one cookie. You can’t stop with, with one brownie. A Girl Scout cookie leads to the whole sleeve. It feels like you don’t have control once you get going.
MELANIE: Well that comes from dopamine that is released when we eat the first one. Dopamine is one of our key neurotransmitters. It is a happy feel-good chemical. Dopamine plays a large role in many body functions, including pleasure, reward, and motivation. When my client ate her first couple of Christmas cookies in the break room, she felt pretty good, briefly. That’s what she was experiencing was that short term high or that bump of dopamine being released. Well, when she experienced a drop in dopamine, her mood and her energy and focus dropped to a lower level than it was before she ate the cookie because that type of dopamine hit from sugar is really short-lived.
MELANIE: Oh, you’re my people.
KARA: Oh, they were just tapping away.
MELANIE: So addicted.
What Causes Low Blood Sugar
Its normal for blood sugar levels to go up and down throughout the day. Within two hours of starting a meal, the typical blood sugar target for someone with diabetes is less than 180 milligrams per deciliter . Before a meal, the level should be 80 to 130mg/dL. These targets may be different for you based on factors like age and other health conditions you may have.
Sometimes, blood sugar levels can be too low under your target. This is known as hypoglycemia. The American Diabetes Association classifies hypoglycemia into three different categories:
- Level 1: Your blood sugar is less than 70mg/dL but at least 54mg/dL. Negative effects may be starting.
- Level 2: Your blood sugar is less than 54mg/dL. Immediate action is needed to reverse the low levels and their effects on your function.
- Level 3: Your mental and/or physical functioning has changed so severely that another person needs to aid in your recovery.
People with diabetes who are treated with insulin or certain diabetes medications, such as oral medications that increase insulin secretion, are at highest risk for low blood sugar. In fact, a large global study of people with diabetes who take insulin found that 83% of people with type 1 diabetes and 46.5% of those with type 2 diabetes reported a low blood sugar event at least once over a four-week period.
It is rarer for people without diabetes to have hypoglycemia, but it is possible. People who don’t have diabetes may experience low blood sugar if they have:
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How To Treat Low Blood Sugar
If you think you have low blood sugar, be sure to check it.
Keeping your blood sugar levels on target as much as possible can help prevent or delay long-term, serious health problems. While this is important, closely managing your blood sugar levels also increases your chance for low blood sugar . Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low. If you think you have low blood sugar, check it. If you arent able to check it, go ahead and treat it.
Untreated low blood sugar can be dangerous, so its important to know what to do about it and to treat it immediately.
Manage Low Blood Glucose Early
Learn to recognise your early warning signs of having a hypo. Be alert to what these are and test your blood glucose levels if any of these symptoms develop. Also make sure to always carry your emergency treatment with you. Keep it in your bag, at work and at home so you can treat low blood glucose early before it becomes more serious.
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When It’s Time To Call A Doctor
If any of the symptoms mentioned have begun to impact your life, such as fatigue so severe you can’t stay awake through the day, it’s a good idea to consult your physician. Dr. Fruge warns that “unstable blood sugar levels could put you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke and it is a red flag for serious health issues” — so blood sugar issues should be taken seriously.
You should also see a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia and haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes or any other underlying condition.
If you do have diabetes and your hypoglycemia isn’t responding to the treatments described above, that’s another good cue to call your health care provider.
If testing reveals you have Type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to continue to test your blood sugar levels as often as instructed by your physician, take insulin regularly and participate in regular exercise. This may mean you will need a new glucose monitoring system, so ask your doctor what they recommend. If you’re diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you’ll most likely need to do the same as for Type 1, as well as working with health care professionals to make lifestyle changes such as improving nutrition and planning workouts. Medication may be necessary as well.
Healthy eating, regular exercise and other lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms and possibly even reverse prediabetes.
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Balanced Blood Sugar Is Key
MELANIE: Well, as a registered dietitian, I like to have my clients focus on what they can do and what they can eat. There’s a lot of focus put on the big no of certain foods and beverages. I mean, we almost feel like they’re naughty foods or bad foods that we shouldn’t be eating. But I want people to have practical solutions on what they can eat. That helps to keep their blood sugar balanced or the glucose balanced throughout the day. Because low blood sugar levels cause cravings for anything sweet. Our brain is fueled by glucose.
So it starts getting low fuel messages. Certain signals are sent to raising that blood sugar as fast as possible. And it’s, it’s really survival mechanism. Things that raise your blood sugar levels fast are again, those high sugar foods and drinks. Alcohol’s another one. People will say, I crave wine and processed carbs that converts rapidly into sugar into the bloodstream. It’s like, like you said, Kara, it’s a vicious cycle.
KARA: Yeah. And like a, a processed carb example, there’s a lot of them, but like the potato chips, we talked about. Right? Or the bread.
MELANIE: I love when clients say, I don’t have a sweet tooth, I just want those chips or crusty bread. And I’m like, it’s a sweet tooth.
KARA: It is in a sense because it’s also rapidly converting into glucose.
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What If The 15
If you dont feel better after three tries, or if your symptoms get worse, call your healthcare provider or 911. Healthcare providers can use a medication called glucagon. They inject it with a needle or squirt it up your nose. Glucagon is also available for home use. Your healthcare provider can prescribe it and teach a family member or friend how to use it in the event of severe hypoglycemia.
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.
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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:
- 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
Talk To Your Doctor Or Nurse
If you use insulin and your blood sugar is frequently or consistently low, ask your doctor or nurse if you:
- Are injecting your insulin the right way
- Need a different type of needle
- Should change how much insulin you take
- Should change the kind of insulin you take
Do not make any changes without talking to your doctor or nurse first.
Sometimes hypoglycemia can be due to accidently taking the wrong medicines. Check your medicines with your pharmacist.
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No Symptoms Be Alarmed
Surprisingly, the most dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia occur with little or no warning. When low blood glucose occurs on a regular basis, the body can become used to the warning signs and the person may stop noticing symptoms. This is a particularly dangerous condition known as hypoglycemic unawareness. People with this condition might not realize they have low blood glucose until it’s dangerously low seizures and coma are sometimes the first indication of a problem. The good news is that this condition can often be reversed allowing people to once again notice the signs of low blood glucose if hypoglycemia is avoided for a few weeks through careful monitoring of blood glucose.
Low Blood Sugar For Children Age 6 And Older
A blood sugar less than 70 is too low.
- Take 10 to 15 grams of quick-acting carbohydrate right away, such as:
- Drink 3 to 4 ounces of juice
- Drink 3 to 4 ounces of soda pop that has sugar
- Chew 3 to 4 glucose tabs
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