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:
Diabetes Care Medication Costs
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Examples Of Easily Digestible Carbohydrates
- 1/2 cup of juice or regular soda
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 4 or 5 saltine crackers
- 3 or 4 pieces of hard candy or glucose tablets
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
Very low blood sugar is a medical emergency. If you or someone else with diabetes is experiencing severe symptoms, such as unconsciousness, its important to administer a medication called glucagon and contact emergency services immediately.
If youre at risk for low blood sugar, its important to talk with your doctor about getting a prescription for glucagon.
You should never give an unconscious person anything by mouth, as it could cause them to choke. If you have diabetes, make sure your family and friends know not to do this if you lose consciousness.
Low blood sugar can occur for a number of reasons. Its usually a side effect of diabetes treatment.
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When Your Blood Sugar Gets Low
Check your blood sugar whenever you have symptoms of low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL, treat yourself right away.
1. Eat something that has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Examples are:
- 3 glucose tablets
- One half cup of fruit juice or regular, non-diet soda
- 5 or 6 hard candies
- 1 tablespoon or 15 mL of sugar, plain or dissolved in water
- 1 tbsp of honey or syrup
2. Wait about 15 minutes before eating any more. Be careful not to eat too much. This can cause high blood sugar and weight gain.
3. Check your blood sugar again.
4. If you do not feel better in 15 minutes and your blood sugar is still lower than 70 mg/dL , eat another snack with 15 g of carbohydrates.
You may need to eat a snack with carbohydrates and protein if your blood sugar is in a safer range over 70 mg/dL and your next meal is more than an hour away.
Ask your provider how to manage this situation. If these steps for raising your blood sugar do not work, call your doctor right away.
What Can Cause Low Blood Sugar Levels
Some things that can make low blood sugar levels more likely are:
- skipping meals and snacks
- not eating enough food during a meal or snack
- exercising longer or harder than usual without eating some extra food
- getting too much insulin
- not timing the insulin doses properly with meals, snacks, and exercise
Also, some things may increase how quickly insulin gets absorbed into the bloodstream and can make hypoglycemia more likely. These include:
- taking a hot shower or bath right after having an insulin injection increases blood flow through the blood vessels in the skin, which can make the insulin be absorbed more quickly than usual
- injecting the shot into a muscle instead of the fatty layer under the skin
- injecting the insulin into a part of the body used a lot in a particular sport .
All of these situations increase the chances that a person may get hypoglycemia.
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How Can I Be Better Prepared For Hypoglycemia
You can take some steps to be ready for hypoglycemia:
- Be aware of the symptoms and treat them early.
- Carry some fast-acting carbs with you all the time.
- Check your glucose levels frequently, especially around meals and exercise.
- Inform family, friends and co-workers so they know what do if you need help.
- Talk to your healthcare provider regularly to make and update your plan.
- Wear a medical bracelet that lets people know you have diabetes. Carry a card in your purse or wallet with instructions for hypoglycemia.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hypoglycemia is quite common in people with diabetes. If not treated, it can cause troubling symptoms, and even serious health problems. Fortunately, you can avoid hypoglycemic episodes by monitoring your blood sugar. You can also make small adjustments to eating and exercising routines.
Treating An Episode Of Hypoglycaemia
The immediate treatment for hypoglycaemia is to have some sugary food or drink to end the attack.
For example, this could be:
- a glass of fruit juice or non-diet soft drink
- between three and five dextrose tablets
- a handful of sweets
At first you should avoid fatty foods and drinks, such as chocolate and milk, because they dont usually contain as much sugar and the sugar they do contain may be absorbed more slowly.
After having something sugary, you should have a longer-acting carbohydrate food, such as a few biscuits, a cereal bar, a piece of fruit or a sandwich.
It will usually take around 15 minutes to recover from a mild episode of hypoglycaemia. If you have a blood glucose meter, measure your blood sugar again after 15 to 20 minutes. If its still too low , you should have some more sugary food or a drink before testing your levels again in another 15 to 20 minutes.
When treating someone else with hypoglycaemia, if the above treatment isnt effective, you may be able to help them by applying glucose gel to the inside of their cheeks, and gently massaging the outside of their cheeks.
It may take 10 to 15 minutes before they feel better. This shouldnt be done if the person is drowsy or unconscious because of the risk of choking.
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What Causes Low Blood Glucose In People With Diabetes
Low blood glucose levels can be a side effect of insulin or some other medicines that help your pancreas release insulin into your blood. Taking these can lower your blood glucose level.
Two types of diabetes pills can cause low blood glucose
- sulfonylureas, usually taken once or twice per day, which increase insulin over several hours
- meglitinides, taken before meals to promote a short-term increase in insulin
The following may also lower your blood glucose level
If Sugar Level Is Above 300
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How To Prevent It
If you work to keep your blood sugar under control â follow your meal plan, exercise program, and medicine schedule â you shouldnÃ¢t have to worry about hyperglycemia. You can also:
- Know your diet â count the total amounts of carbs in each meal and snack.
- Test your blood sugar regularly.
- Tell your doctor if you have repeated abnormal blood sugar readings.
- Wear medical identification to let people know you have diabetes in case of an emergency.
How Do You Bring Blood Sugar Down Fast
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S For Treating A Person With Symptoms Keeping Them From Being Able To Treat Themselves
Dont hesitate to call 911. If someone is unconscious and glucagon is not available or someone does not know how to use it, call 911 immediately.
- Provide food or fluids
How Can I Prevent Low Blood Sugar
Your best bet is to practice good diabetes management and learn to detect hypoglycemia so you can treat it earlybefore it gets worse.
Monitoring blood sugar, with either a meter or a CGM, is the tried and true method for preventing hypoglycemia. Studies consistently show that the more a person checks blood sugar, the lower his or her risk of hypoglycemia. This is because you can see when blood sugar levels are dropping and can treat it before it gets too low.
If you can, check often!
- Check before and after meals.
- Check before and after exercise .
- Check before bed.
- After intense exercise, also check in the middle of the night.
- Check more if things around you change such as, a new insulin routine, a different work schedule, an increase in physical activity, or travel across time zones.
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What Causes Low Blood Sugar In The Morning
The causes of low blood sugar in the morning vary. If you have diabetes, you likely need to adjust your background insulin levels. Make sure youre aware of how any other medications you take can affect your blood sugar. Your doctor can help you make sure that your insulin dosage and any other medications you take are a good fit with your diet and exercise routines. Additionally, alcohol usage is a risk for hypoglycemia.
If you dont have diabetes, hypoglycemia is less likely to occur. However, some non-diabetes-related causes of hypoglycemia include the following:
- drinking too much alcohol the previous night, which makes it harder for your liver to release glucose into your blood, thus causing a low blood sugar
- chronic starvation
Treating low blood sugar is fairly simple. If you wake up with hypoglycemia symptoms, try to consume about 15 grams of carbohydrates as soon as possible. Snacks that provide this include:
- 3 glucose tablets
- 1/2 cup of non-sugar-free fruit juice
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1/2 can of non-diet soda
Make sure you dont eat too much to treat low blood sugar, as this can have an opposite affect and make your levels too high. Wait 15 minutes after your first snack. If youre not feeling better, have another 15 grams of carbohydrates. Pairing your carbohydrate with a protein and healthy source of fat, such as nuts, seeds, cheese, or hummus, helps to keep you full and prevent another big drop in blood sugar.
What Should I Do If My Blood Sugar Is Low Right Before A Meal
- Take quick-acting carbohydrate.
- Wait 5 minutes so your blood sugar starts to come up.
- If you are feeling better, take your insulin dose to cover the carbohydrate you will eat.
- Do not take extra insulin to cover the quick-acting carbohydrate you took for your low blood sugar.
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Digestive Endocrine And Circulatory Systems
After you eat, your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into glucose. Essentially, glucose is your bodys fuel source.
As your sugar levels rise, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which helps glucose get taken up and used by cells throughout your body. If you have insulin-dependent diabetes, you must take the right about of insulin to get the job done.
Any excess glucose goes to your liver for storage.
When you go a few hours without eating, blood sugar levels go down. If you have a healthy pancreas, it releases a hormone called glucagon to make up for the absence of food. This hormone tells your liver to process the stored sugars and release them into your bloodstream.
If everything works as it should, your blood sugar levels should remain in the normal range until your next meal.
Insufficient blood sugar levels can cause a rapid heartbeat and heart palpitations. However, even if you have diabetes, you may not always have obvious symptoms of low blood sugar. This is a potentially dangerous condition called hypoglycemia unawareness. It happens when you experience low blood sugar so often that it changes your bodys response to it.
Normally, low blood sugar causes your body to release stress hormones, such as epinephrine. Epinephrine is responsible for those early warning signs, like hunger and shakiness.
How Is Nondiabetic Hypoglycemia Diagnosed
There are a few ways your doctor can diagnose low blood sugar.
First, your doctor will probably start with a physical exam and may ask you to fast for a prolonged period of time and then check your blood sugar levels by analyzing a blood sample.
Your doctor may also ask you to keep a diary of everything you eat and drink and when you experience low blood sugar symptoms. If your doctor suspects that medication is the cause of your low blood sugar, he or she may switch you to a different medication.
If your doctor suspects an underlying medical condition, he or she may order some tests such as a CT scan or MRI.
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