When To See A Doctor
Dietary changes can help you manage and prevent sugar crashes. However, if youve had surgery or are managing ulcers, you may need to see your doctor for additional treatments.
You should also see your doctor if you continue to have sugar crashes despite dietary changes. Your doctor may check for diabetes or other underlying health conditions.
When blood glucose isnt controlled, it can lead to complications, including:
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How Low Can Blood Sugar Go Before Death
If a persons blood sugar drops to extremely low levels, he can die and that is why it is important to maintain a safe level of it at all times. However, how low it can get is largely dependant on an individuals body and their requirements. If a persons body is severely starved of energy, then they may be at an increased risk for heart failure.
Before that, the person will start showing severe symptoms of hypoglycemia before the condition worsens.
When a person starts feeling dizzy or even faints, shows increased amount of perspiration and increased heart rate then they should seek medical help immediately. Once the blood sugar levels start dropping they can eventually gather momentum and start dropping at an increased rate. That is why it is very important to learn to recognize the symptoms and take corrective measures as soon as they notice it.
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The Causes Of Low Blood Sugar
Low blood sugar levels can happen to kids with diabetes because of the medicines they have to take. Kids with diabetes may need a hormone called insulin and/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 bodys cells, which makes the level of sugar in the blood go down.
But sometimes its a tricky balancing act, and blood sugar levels can get too low. Kids with diabetes need to keep their blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low. How do they do it? With help from grown-ups, they keep three things in balance:
- not timing the insulin doses properly with meals, snacks, and exercise
- taking a long bath or shower right after an insulin shot
How Are Low Blood Sugar Levels Treated
Your diabetes health care team will give you guidelines for treating low blood sugar levels, depending on your symptoms. If you can, try to test your blood sugar levels to make sure that your symptoms are because of hypoglycemia. If you can’t test blood sugar immediately, don’t delay in treating your symptoms you can always check your blood sugar after you’ve taken steps to get your blood sugar back up into the normal range.
When blood sugar levels are low, the goal is to get them back up quickly. To do that, you should take in sugar or sugary foods, which raise the blood sugar level quickly. Your health care team might suggest that you:
- Eat, drink, or take something that contains sugar that can get into the blood quickly. Your doctor may tell you to have really sugary foods or drinks or might give you glucose tablets or gel to take all of these can help to raise your blood sugar level fast, which is what you need to do when it’s low.
- Wait about 10 minutes to let the sugar work.
- Recheck your blood sugar level with a glucose meter to see if blood sugar levels are back to normal.
- Get a glucagon shot , if your symptoms are severe or get worse after you eat, drink, or take glucose.
Sometimes, blood sugar levels can get so low that you may not be awake enough to eat or drink something to get them back up. When this happens, you may need a glucagon shot.
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Prevention Of Low Blood Sugar
Do not skip or delay meals. If your diet plan includes snacks, make sure to take these.
Measure insulin dosage carefully and inject it properly. If you cannot see well, a family member or a visiting nurse can prepare your insulin injections for you.
Take only the prescribed amount of insulin or oral medication for diabetes that your doctor has ordered.
Keep exercise consistent from day to day. Eat a snack or reduce your insulin prior to unusual exercise.
If you are taking insulin, notify your doctor if you have low blood sugars four or more times per week or if you have a severe low blood sugar. Severe low blood sugars are those less than 40 mg., those requiring help from another person, or those which cause you to have a convulsion or become unconscious.
If you are taking oral medication for your diabetes notify your doctor or nurse if blood sugars are running less than 80 mg. or if you have a severe low blood sugar.
What A Low Blood Sugar Feels Like
Across the board, a low blood sugar seems to be considered as anything under 70 mg/dL. Revisiting the American Diabetes Associations website this morning offers up a list of symptoms of low blood sugar, like:
- Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
- Nightmares or crying out during sleep
The what happens if a low blood sugar goes untreated answer is short, and to the point: If left untreated, hypoglycemia may lead to a seizure or unconsciousness . In this case, someone else must take over.
When my daughter hears my Dexcom beeping, she understands the difference between the alert signaling a high blood sugar and the alert signaling a low. If the high alarm goes off, she doesnt react, but if the low alarm goes off, she perks up immediately and asks me if I need a glupose tab. The immediacy and seriousness of low blood sugars is noticed by my three year old because shes seen me go from normal, functional Mom to confused, sweaty, and tangled-in-my-own-words Mom in a matter of minutes.
The symptoms of low blood sugars dont just vary from PWD to PWD, but often vary within the PWDs own lifetime. When I was very small, my low blood sugar tell was when my mouth would go numb and my face felt like Id had Novocaine hours earlier and it was just starting to wear off, with that tingly, prickly feeling. Over the years, Ive had a lot of lows with varying symptoms:
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What Are The Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can start quickly, with people experiencing them in different ways. The signs of hypoglycemia are unpleasant. But they provide good warnings that you should take action before blood sugar drops more. The signs include:
- Shaking or trembling.
- Tingling or numbness in the face or mouth.
During a severe hypoglycemic event, a person may:
- Be unable to eat or drink.
- Have a seizure or convulsions .
- Lose consciousness.
- Slip into a coma or die .
When You Have Low Blood Sugar
First, eat or drink 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as:
- Three to four glucose tablets
- One tube of glucose gel
- Four to six pieces of hard candy
- 1/2 cup fruit juice
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup soft drink
- 1 tablespoon honey
Fifteen minutes after you’ve eaten a food with sugar in it, check your blood sugar again. If your blood sugar is still less than 70 mg/dL, eat another serving of one of the foods listed above. Repeat these steps until your sugar becomes normal.
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Possible Causes With Diabetes
Diabetes affects your bodys ability to use insulin. Think of insulin as the key that unlocks your cells, letting in glucose for energy.
If you have diabetes, a variety of treatments can help the cells in your body use the glucose in your blood. Among these are insulin injections and oral medications that increase insulin production.
If you take too much of these types of medications, your blood sugar may drop too low. You may also sometimes experience low blood sugar if you plan to eat a big meal but then do not eat enough.
Skipping meals, eating less than usual, or eating later than usual but taking your medication at your usual time can also lead to low blood sugar levels.
Unplanned excess physical activity without eating enough can also cause a drop in blood sugar levels.
Drinking alcohol when youre on these medications can also lead to low blood sugar, especially if it replaces food. When your body is trying to get rid of alcohol, it becomes worse at managing blood sugar levels.
What Is Low Blood Glucose
Low blood glucose, also called low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, occurs when the level of glucose in your blood drops below what is healthy for you. For many people with diabetes, this means a blood glucose reading lower than 70 milligrams per deciliter .1 Your number might be different, so check with your doctor or health care team to find out what blood glucose level is low for you.
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Low Blood Glucose During Sleep
Your blood glucose level can drop while you sleep and stay low for several hours, causing serious problems.7 Symptoms of low blood glucose while you sleep can include
- crying out or having nightmares
- sweating enough to make your pajamas or sheets damp
- feeling tired, irritable, or confused after waking up
Although you may not wake up or notice any symptoms, low blood glucose can interfere with your sleep, which may affect your quality of life, mood, and ability to work. Having low blood glucose during sleep can also make you less likely to notice and respond to symptoms of low blood glucose during the day.
How Can I Prevent Hypoglycemic Episodes
The key to preventing hypoglycemic events is managing diabetes:
- Follow your healthcare providers instructions about food and exercise.
- Track your blood sugar regularly, including before and after meals, before and after exercise and before bed.
- Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
- When you do have a hypoglycemic event, write it down. Include details such as the time, what you ate recently, whether you exercised, the symptoms and your glucose level.
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What Are Clinical Trials For Low Blood Glucose
Clinical trialsand other types of clinical studiesare part of medical research and involve people like you. When you volunteer to take part in a clinical study, you help doctors and researchers learn more about disease and improve health care for people in the future.
Researchers are studying many aspects of low blood glucose levels in diabetes, such as
- how to diagnose and treat low blood glucose among people with diabetes
- medicines that can treat symptoms of low blood glucose in people with hypoglycemia unawareness
- educational approaches to reduce fear of low blood glucose, which can make it harder for you to control your diabetes
The Future Of Syncope
Standardized national registries and large databases are needed to gather more data to better understand the incidence and prevalence of syncope, patient risks and outcomes, set lifestyle policies and improve healthcare delivery.
Some studies have shown that with recurrent episodes of fainting, the quality of life is reduced in both adults and in pediatric patients, however more well designed studies that incorporates quality of life, work loss and functional capacity are needed. In addition, more studies incorporate quality of life, work loss and functional capacity as possible results and better understand the relationship of syncope symptoms, causes and underlying diseases to various outcomes.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
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Hypoglycemia Tests And Diagnosis
To diagnose nondiabetic hypoglycemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about any medicines you take. Theyâll want to know all about your health and any history of diseases or stomach surgery.
Theyâll check your blood glucose level, especially when you are having symptoms. Theyâll also check to see if you feel better when your sugar goes back to a normal level.
If your doctor suspects hypoglycemia, you may have to fast until you start to have symptoms. Theyâll test your blood glucose level at different times throughout the fast.
To check for reactive hypoglycemia, you may have to take a test called a mixed-meal tolerance test . For this, you take a special drink that raises your blood glucose. The doctor will check your blood glucose levels over the next few hours.
Your Diabetes Devices And Hypoglycemia
Several insulin pumps are now available that make managing blood sugar levels easier, particularly when connected to a glucose meter or a CGM.
Some of the most important advantages of CGM devices are the improved insulin control and the ability to detect trends and lows early. With improved technology, it is now possible for parents to track blood sugar trends in their kids even when they are hundreds of miles apart .
In addition, automated insulin delivery systems, also known an artificial pancreas or a hybrid closed-loop system, will automatically adjust insulin to match your bodys need to help you spend more time in your target range.
Resources that provide people with T1D and their families with more detailed information about pumps and CGM devices are available through JDRF here. For people looking for a deeper understanding of technology that helps people with T1D better manage their blood sugar, JDRF resources are available here.
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How Long Will The Effects Last
The effects of low blood sugar will continue and may even get worse until treatment brings your blood sugar level back to normal. It may take several minutes for the symptoms to go away after you start treatment. This may be a temporary problem while you and your healthcare provider are adjusting your medicine. If you are always prone to having low blood sugar, you may need to take special care for the rest of your life to keep your blood sugar at the proper level.
What To Do If Someone Goes Into Diabetic Shock
Although most people equate diabetes with high blood sugars, individuals using insulin or certain diabetes pills may experience low blood sugar levels, especially if they miss a meal or exercise more than usual. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, may be mild and easily treated or can worsen to a medical emergency. When a person suffering from low blood sugar requires the help of others for treatment, this is considered severe hypoglycemia, according to the 2015 practice guidelines of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 1. Severe hypoglycemia is also referred to as diabetic shock or an insulin reaction. Most low blood sugar episodes are minor and easily recognized and treated. However, severe cases require emergency treatment at home or warrant a 911 call.
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What Are The Treatments For Hypoglycemia
Make an appointment with an endocrinologist if you feel like youre having episodes of hypoglycemia, even if youre not diabetic. Theyll talk you through treatment strategies, including:
- Adjusting your medications. You may need to change how often you take insulin or other medications, which medications youre on, how much you take, and when you take them.
- Working with a registered dietitian on a personalized meal plan that stabilizes blood sugar levels. Theres no one-size-fits-all hypoglycemia diet, but a nutritionist can help you figure out a consistent meal plan tailored to you, and teach you how to count carbohydrate grams to go along with your health and routine.
- Increasing and improving self-monitoring of your blood glucose levels. Knowing your blood glucose level throughout the daywhen you get up, before meals, and after meals etc.can help you keep it from getting too low.
- Limiting consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol interferes with the way your body metabolizes glucose. If you’re prone to hypoglycemia, consider decreasing how much alcohol you consume.
- Glucose tablets . Make sure you always have glucose tablets on hand, whether at home, school, the office, or the gym. After taking the tablet, check your blood sugar. If its still low, take another tablet. If that doesnt help, check with your doctor.
What Does Having Low Blood Glucose Levels Mean
Hypoglycemia is a condition wherein a person is suffering from significantly low blood glucose or blood sugar levels. Typically, when you eat food, your body readily breaks down carbohydrates into different types of sugar molecules. One of these is glucose.
Glucose happens to be the bodys main energy source. However, it is not able to enter the cells of most of the bodys tissues without the help of insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas. Insulin allows glucose to properly enter the cells so that cells can be nourished and function properly. Meanwhile, any extra glucose is stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen.
If you have not eaten for hours and your blood sugar drops, the glucagon hormone from the pancreas signals your liver to break down the glycogen and release glucose into your bloodstream. Cortisol can also be released from the adrenal glands to raise blood sugar levels as well. Typically, this results in an elevated blood sugar level in the body. If it doesnt, it means that you have hypoglycemia, indicating that your blood sugar level is dangerously low.
When suffering from hypoglycemia, you can experience a number of common symptoms. These include shakiness, hunger, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, weakness, irritability, and even irregular heart rhythms. As the condition becomes worse, it can even lead to confusion, visual disturbances, seizures, and even loss of consciousness.
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