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What Happens When Blood Sugar Is Too Low

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What Are The Complications Of Low Blood Glucose

Insulin Questions: What if I give myself the wrong amount?

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

Always Remember ‘if In Doubt Treat’

1. Eat or drink 1 serving of a quick-acting carbohydrate. Each of the following is 1 serving:

  • 3 teaspoons of glucose powder in water
  • of glucose;tablets
  • 3 teaspoons of jam or sugar
  • a small glass of sugar-sweetened lemonade or cordial
  • 6 large jelly beans/5 Mentos.

2. After 10 minutes test your blood glucose again. If it is still less than 4mmol/L, have another serving of quick-acting carbohydrate from the list above.

3. Once your blood glucose is above 4mmol/L,;eat some carbohydrate food or if it’s your mealtime, eat your meal.

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

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Treating Severely Low Blood Sugar

Blood sugar below 55 mg/dL is considered severely low. You wont be able to treat it using the 15-15 rule. You also may not be able to check your own blood sugar or treat it by yourself, depending on your symptoms. Make sure your family members, friends, and caregivers know your signs of low blood sugar so they can help treat it if needed.

Injectable glucagon is the best way to treat severely low blood sugar. A glucagon kit is available by prescription. Speak with your doctor to see if you should have a kit. Be sure to learn how and when to use it. Let family members and others close to you know where you keep the glucagon kit and make sure theyve been trained in how to use it too.

Its important to contact a doctor for emergency medical treatment immediately after receiving a glucagon injection. If a person faints due to severely low blood sugar, theyll usually wake up within 15 minutes after a glucagon injection. If they dont wake up within 15 minutes after the injection, they should receive one more dose. When the person is awake and able to swallow:

  • Feed the person a fast-acting source of sugar .
  • Then, have them eat a long-acting source of sugar .

Its also important that friends, family, co-workers, teachers, coaches, and other people you may be around often know how to test your blood sugar and treat severely low blood sugar before it happens.

If any of the following happens, your friend, relative, or helper should call 911:

What Causes Low Blood Sugar

Low Blood Sugar (hypoglycemia)

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.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar

Each person’s reaction to low blood sugar is different. Learn your own signs and symptoms of when your blood sugar is low. Taking time to write these symptoms down may help you learn your own symptoms of when your blood sugar is low. From milder, more common indicators to most severe, signs and symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • Feeling shaky
  • Color draining from the skin
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Feeling weak or having no energy
  • Blurred/impaired vision
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue;or cheeks
  • Headaches
  • Nightmares or crying out during sleep
  • Seizures

The only sure way to know whether you are experiencing low blood sugar is to check your blood sugar, if possible. If you are experiencing symptoms and you are unable to check your blood sugar for any reason, treat the hypoglycemia.;

A low;blood sugar level;triggers the release of epinephrine , the fight-or-flight;hormone. Epinephrine is what can cause the symptoms of hypoglycemia such as thumping heart, sweating, tingling;and anxiety.

If the blood sugar level continues to drop, the brain does not get enough glucose and stops functioning as it should. This can lead to blurred vision, difficulty concentrating, confused thinking, slurred speech, numbness, and drowsiness. If blood sugar stays low for too long, starving the brain of glucose, it may lead to seizures,;coma;and very rarely death.;

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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Treating Low Blood Glucose If You Take Medicines That Slow Down Digestion

Some diabetes medicines slow down the digestion of carbohydrates to keep blood glucose levels from rising too high after you eat. If you develop low blood glucose while taking these medicines, you will need to take glucose tablets or glucose gel right away. Eating or drinking other sources of carbohydrates wont raise your blood glucose level quickly enough.

Preventing Low Blood Sugar Levels

What is Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)?

Here are some other tips to help you avoid low blood sugar levels:

  • Eat all your meals and snacks on time and try not to skip any.
  • Take the right amount of insulin.
  • If you exercise longer or harder than usual, have an extra snack.
  • Don’t take a hot bath or shower right after an insulin shot.
  • Stick to your diabetes management plan.
  • Check your blood sugar levels regularly, so you can tell if your blood sugars are running too low and your treatment plan needs adjustment.
  • Carry something containing sugar with you at all times and take it right away if you have symptoms. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms will go away they may get worse!

Alcohol and drugs can cause major problems with your blood sugar levels, so avoiding them is another way to prevent diabetes problems. Drinking can be particularly dangerous even deadly for people with diabetes because it messes up the body’s ability to keep blood glucose in a normal range. This can cause a very rapid drop in blood glucose in people with diabetes. Drug or alcohol use is also dangerous because it may affect someone’s ability to sense low blood sugar levels.

Learning how to recognize the signs of low blood sugar levels and get them back to normal is an important part of caring for diabetes. Keeping track of your blood sugar levels and recording lows when they occur will help you and your diabetes health care team keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range.

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What Drinks And Foods Raise Blood Sugar Fast

  • 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 can of regular soda or juice

Many people like the idea of treating low blood sugar with dietary treats such as cake, cookies, and brownies. However, sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates or sugar combined with fat and protein are much too slowly absorbed to be useful in acute treatment.

Once the acute episode has been treated, a healthy, long-acting carbohydrate to maintain blood sugars in the appropriate range should be consumed. Half a sandwich is a reasonable option.

If the hypoglycemic episode has progressed to the point at which the patient cannot or will not take anything by mouth, more drastic measures will be needed. In many cases, a family member or roommate can be trained in the use of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that causes a rapid release of glucose stores from the liver. It is an injection given intramuscularly to an individual who cannot take glucose by mouth. A response is usually seen in minutes and lasts for about 90 minutes. Again, a long-acting source of glucose should thereafter be consumed to maintain blood sugar levels in the safe range. If glucagon is not available and the patient is not able to take anything by mouth, emergency services should be called immediately. An intravenous route of glucose administration should be established as soon as possible.

Causes Symptoms Diagnosis Treatments And Support

With Elena Christofides;and;Jennifer Shine Dyer MD, MPH

When youre diabetic, a severe drop in blood sugar can strike even when youre doing everything right. Glucose is your bodys main source of energy and fuels your brain, so its critical to recognize the early signs of an episode before it becomes severe enough to cause you to pass out or worse. Were here to empower you with clear answers to all your pressing Qs.

Definition;|;Causes;|;Symptoms;|;Diagnosis;|;Treatments;|;Complications;|;Fast Facts;|;Support;

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What Is The Outlook For People With Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia can be managed when you and your healthcare provider understand what causes your blood sugar to go down. Give your healthcare provider as much information as possible about any hypoglycemic episodes. Fixing the problem may be as simple as changing the times you take medication, eat and exercise. Minor changes to the types of food you eat may also help.

Low Blood Glucose During Sleep

Hypoglycemia: Battling low blood sugar

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.

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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 don’t 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 it’s 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 isn’t 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 shouldn’t be done if the person is drowsy or unconscious because of the risk of choking.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia tends to present as a cluster of symptoms, and they often occur together. The most common signs of dangerously low blood sugar include:

  • Dizziness, disorientation, light-headedness, and an inability to think clearly
  • Hunger, especially if youve just eaten
  • Heightened irritability, confusion, and anxiety
  • Clamminess and sweating, with cold hands and feet
  • Drastic mood swings

If you have one or more of these symptoms contact your doctor.

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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. ;

What Should I Do If I Have Symptoms Of A Low Blood Sugar Level

Low Blood Sugar
  • Check your blood sugar level, if possible. Your blood sugar level is too low if it is at or below 70 mg/dL.
  • Eat or drink 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate. Fast-acting carbohydrates will raise your blood sugar level quickly. Examples of 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates:
  • 4 ounces of fruit juice
  • 4 ounces of regular soda
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins
  • 1 tube of glucose gel or 3 to 4 glucose tablets
  • Check your blood sugar level 15 minutes later. If the level is still less than 100 mg/dL, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrate. When the level returns to 100 mg/dL, eat a snack or meal that contains carbohydrates. This will help prevent another drop in blood sugar.
  • Teach people close to you how to use your glucagon kit. Your blood sugar may be too low for you to be awake. People need to know when and how to use your kit.
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    What Is The Difference Between Prediabetes And Type 2 Diabetes

    • Prediabetes occurs when there is too much sugar in the blood. It is an early warning sign that the body has more sugar in the blood then it can use.
    • Type 2 diabetes is a condition that occurs slowly over time. The pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to keep up with the increased need to move sugar into the cells for energy. Medication and lifestyle changes are necessary to manage blood sugar levels and avoid diabetes complications.
    • Type 1 diabetes is different, and results from auto-immune attacks on the pancreas.

    What are the signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

    Without reversing prediabetes, blood sugar continues to rise and signs and symptoms of diabetes may develop. The most common symptoms and early signs are thirst and excess urination. Sometimes people will notice unexplained weight loss. Later signs of type 2 diabetes are

    Unfortunately, there really are no symptoms or signs of prediabetes. It almost always is diagnosed by chance during a medical screening or routine bloodwork. This is why it is important to get screened, especially if you are overweight or have family members with diabetes or pre-diabetes. However, the most common sign associated with prediabetes is being overweight.

    It is common for a person with prediabetes to only have slightly elevated blood sugar levels, but the body continues to require increased insulin to maintain it. Hyperinsulinemia or high insulin, has signs and symptoms of:

    What To Do If You Have Symptoms

    Very low blood sugar is a medical emergency. If someone you know has diabetes and theyre experiencing mild to moderate symptoms, have them eat or drink 15 grams of easily digestible carbohydrates, such as:

    • half a 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

    If someone is having a severe reaction, such as unconsciousness, its important to administer a medication called glucagon and contact emergency services immediately.

    People who are at risk for low blood sugar should talk with their doctor about getting a prescription for glucagon. You should never give an unconscious person anything by mouth, as it could cause them to choke.

    Low blood sugar can occur for a number of reasons. Its usually a side effect of diabetes treatment.

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