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:
- start shaking
- 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.
Symptoms Treatments And Prevention
Hyperglycemia means high glucose in the blood . Your body needs glucose to properly function. Your cells rely on glucose for energy. Hyperglycemia is a defining characteristic of diabeteswhen the blood glucose level is too high because the body isn’t properly using or doesn’t make the hormone insulin.
Eating too many processed foods may cause your blood sugar to rise.
What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis
When the body doesn’t have enough insulin, glucose stays in the blood and can’t get into the body’s cells to be used for energy. This can happen, for example, when someone skips doses of insulin or when the need for insulin suddenly increases and the doses are not adjusted.
When the body can’t use glucose for fuel, it starts to use fat. When this happens, chemicals called ketones are released into the blood. Some of these ketones, like extra glucose, pass out of the body through the urine.
High levels of ketones in the blood can be a problem because they cause the blood to become acidic. Too much acid in the blood throws off the body’s chemical balance and causes the symptoms listed below. In people with diabetes, this problem is called diabetic , or DKA. DKA is a very serious condition that can lead to coma or death if it’s not treated. The good news, though, is that it’s preventable and can be treated.
DKA happens more often in people with type 1 diabetes, but can sometimes also happen to those with type 2 diabetes.
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What Causes Low Blood Sugar
Despite advances in the treatment of diabetes, low blood sugar episodes occur as a side effect of many treatments for diabetes. In fact, these episodes are often the limiting factor in achieving optimal blood sugar control, because many medications that are effective in treating diabetes carry the risk of lowering the blood sugar level too much, causing symptoms. In large scale studies looking at tight control in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, low blood sugars occurred more often in the patients who were managed most intensively. This is important for patients and physicians to recognize, especially as the goal for treating patients with diabetes becomes tighter control of blood sugar.
While people who do not have any metabolic problems can complain of symptoms that resemble low blood sugar, true hypoglycemia usually occurs in people with diabetes mellitus . People with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance also can have low blood sugars on occasion if their high circulating insulin levels are further challenged by a prolonged period of fasting. There are other rare causes for the condition, such as insulin-producing tumors and certain medications.
These uncommon causes of hypoglycemia will not be discussed in this article, which will primarily focus on the condition occurring with type 1 or 2 diabetes and its treatment.
How To Get Your Blood Sugar Up
A quick way to do it is the 15-15 rule:
But donât eat too much — That could send your blood sugar sky-high. Stick with repeat doses of 15 grams until youâre back to normal.
If your blood sugarâs very low or the 15-15 method doesnât work, you may need a shot of glucagon. This is a hormone your body makes that raises your blood sugar fast. Ask your doctor if you should have a glucagon rescue kit on hand. Be sure the people in your life know how to use it if you faint.
Tell your diabetes team any time you have low blood sugar, especially if itâs serious. They can suggest things to do so it doesnât happen as often.
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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 Risks Of Hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia can be a sign that your body isnt getting enough insulin. It is normal for patients with T1D to get hyperglycemia, and most of the time this is simply treated with insulin. If the body does not have insulin for approximately 8 hours, you could develop a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA.
In DKA, your body breaks down fat for energy because it doesnt have enough insulin to use the sugar in your blood. This produces chemicals called ketones, which make your blood more acidic.
DKA is dangerous. Too much acid in your blood can make you pass out or even cause death.
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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.
What Do They Mean
Maintaining a consistent blood sugar level is a key component of optimal health. Hereâs why:
When we eat sugar, our body creates a surge of the feel-good brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. Immediately following, our pancreas kicks into gear producing insulin to absorb the excess glucose and help regulate our blood. Once the insulin has done its job, our blood sugar drops again, leaving us feeling cranky and drained. Our body craves more sugar to give it a temporary boost and the cycle continues.
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When Blood Sugar Is Too Low
Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat, and it’s also formed and stored inside the body. It’s the main source of energy for the cells of our body, and is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Our brains depend on glucose to function, even when we’re sleeping.
The is the amount of glucose in the blood. When these levels drop too low, it’s called hypoglycemia . Very low blood sugar levels can cause serious symptoms that need to be treated right away.
Examples Of Appropriate Snacks May Be:
- 6 saltine crackers
- 1 slice toast and 1/2 cup milk
- 1 cup milk
The food eaten for a reaction need not be subtracted from a meal plan.
Obtain a blood sugar when symptoms occur if you are able. If symptoms are severe, treat the reaction first and then obtain a blood sugar. Do not drive nor operate equipment if you feel your blood sugar is low.
If your blood sugar drops low enough for you to become unconscious, you must be taken to the hospital and/or treated with glucagon.
Glucagon is a hormone that causes the blood sugar to rise. It can only be given by injection. It is used to treat a low blood sugar if a person becomes semi-conscious or unconscious due to a severe low blood sugar. Please ask your nurse for instruction on glucagon. Your doctor will need to write a prescription for glucagon so you can have it available at home.
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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 Is Normal Blood Sugar
When we eat, glucose — which is our body’s main source of energy — enters our bloodstream from our food. Then our pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin in just the right amount to help the glucose go from the bloodstream to our body’s various cells to be used as energy. This process usually keeps the glucose in our bloodstream in a healthy range, being neither too high, nor too low.
This range is measured in milligrams of blood glucose per deciliter, or mg/dL. Dr. Saleh Aldasouqi, Chief of Endocrinology at Michigan State University, explains to CNET: “Normal blood sugar is defined as anywhere from 70 to 110 mg/dL within a healthy physiology, as a person without diabetes or other related diagnosed condition. Sugar below 70 is generally considered low, and above 110 is considered high .”
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Managing Your Diabetes Devices
If you are using an insulin pump, talk to your diabetes team about how to best manage hyperglycemia. In general, be sure to check your pump first. Make sure all parts are connected and working correctly. Check your bolus history and temporary basal rate. Also check your insulin to make sure it has not expired or gotten too warm.
If you use a CGM, try not to react to it too often. You might be tempted to give another dose of insulin too soon, before the first one finishes working, which is known as stacking insulin this can cause low blood sugar .
Which Dogs Are Most At Risk Of Having Low Blood Sugar
The dogs that are most at risk of having low blood sugar are puppies, toy breeds, small breed dogs, and dogs who exert a lot of energy.
Puppies are most susceptible to low blood sugar because their bodies have not developed to the point where they are able to regulate their blood sugar levels on their own consistently.
Toy breeds and small breed dogs are susceptible to low blood sugar because they are often unable to store enough glucose to support their high amounts of energy. The combination of low glucose in storage accompanied with a high energy expenditure can result in a glucose deficiency, or low blood sugar.
Dogs who exert a lot of energy include dogs who may be pregnant, hunt frequently, are worker dogs , or dogs with known medical problems. If your dog is a working dog, hunts often, has known medical conditions, or may be pregnant then they may be at risk for low blood sugar.
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Nausea Vomiting Confusion And More
These seemingly disparate symptoms are all signs of a rare and life-threatening state called diabetic ketoacidosis , according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. DKA can cause the symptoms above, as well as stomach pain, trouble breathing, dry or flushed skin, fruity-smelling breath, or difficulty paying attention. It usually occurs in people with type 1 diabetes and is sometimes the first sign they are sick, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. DKA happens when the liver is unable to use the sugar in the blood for energy without insulin and begins to break down body fat into a type of fuel called ketones at such a high rate that they become toxic and make the blood acidic, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. DKA can be fatal if left untreated, so anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek care immediately.
Over time, untreated high blood sugar can cause additional symptoms, such as:
Preventing A Low Blood Sugar Level
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your chance of getting a low blood sugar level if you:
- Check your blood sugar level regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar level so you can treat it quickly.
- Always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets. If you have a glucagon injection kit, always keep it with you.
- Do not skip meals.
- Be careful when drinking alcohol. Do not drink large amounts, check your blood sugar level regularly, and eat a carbohydrate snack afterwards.
- Be careful when exercising eating a carbohydrate snack before exercise can help to reduce the risk of a hypo. If you take some types of diabetes medicine, your doctor may recommend you take a lower dose before or after doing intense exercise.
- Have a carbohydrate snack, such as toast, if your blood sugar level drops too low while you’re asleep
If you keep getting a low blood sugar level, talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it.
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What Are The Signs Of High And Low Blood Sugar
The symptoms vary depending on whether you have hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia. Find out how to spot the warning signs and stabilize your glucose.
One of the challenges of managing diabetes is maintaining consistent blood sugar levels. Even with diligence, some situations can cause high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, while others can bring on low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia.
After all, its not just carbohydrate intake that influences the amount of glucose coursing through your bloodstream when you have type 2 diabetes. Emotional stress and certain medications can increase your blood sugar levels, and a boost in activity can cause it to drop, says Megan ONeill, CDCES, a medical science liaison for diabetes care at Abbott healthcare company in Monterey, California. Sometimes people experience a spike in their blood sugar early in the morning due to the dawn effect, a temporary surge of hormones that occurs as the body prepares to wake, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
For people with diabetes, managing blood glucose levels is especially important, ONeill says. Levels that are too low or high can result in complications that affect your kidneys, heart, and vision, reduce your quality of life, require expensive interventions, or even be fatal.
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- Between 80 and 130 milligrams per deciliter before meals
- Less than 180 mg/dL two hours after meals
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Causes And Risk Factors Of Hypoglycemia
For most people with diabetes, hypoglycemia is more complex than simply not getting enough glucose. Your medication may cause low blood sugar, for example.
If you have type 1 diabetes or if you have type 2 diabetes and take insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels, you can experience low blood sugar if you do not take the proper amount of insulin, Dr. Dodell says. This is also noted by the American Diabetes Association.
Other diabetes medication can interfere with insulin production and make your glucose drop, too. Among these are the insulin-increasing drugs for type 2 diabetes called sulfonylureas and their less potent counterparts called meglitinides.
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Diabetic Alert Dogs Can Help
Not only can dogs deal with low blood sugar like people, but they are also known to help their human companions detect hypoglycemia.
In a July 2016 study published in Diabetes Care, researchers studied eight women ages 41 to 51 with type 1 diabetes and found that dogs could detect isoprene chemicals, a marker of low blood sugar, on participants breath. These results suggest dogs may be able to warn their owners of impending hypoglycemic attacks. Dogs can be trained to detect such episodes.