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.
Severe Low Blood Sugar
As your low blood sugar gets worse, you may experience more serious symptoms, including:
- Having difficulty walking or seeing clearly.
- Acting strange or feeling confused.
- Having seizures.
Severe low blood sugar is below 54 mg/dL. Blood sugar this low may make you faint . Often, youll need someone to help you treat severe low blood sugar.
People with diabetes may experience low blood sugar as often as once or twice a week, even when managing their blood sugar closely. Knowing how to identify and treat it is important for your health. Learn how to treat low blood sugar.
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.
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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.
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.
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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.
Signs And Symptoms Of Low Blood Glucose
Each person’s reaction to low blood glucose is different. Learn your own signs and symptoms of when your blood glucose is low. Taking time to write these symptoms down may help you learn your own symptoms of when your blood glucose is low. From milder, more common indicators to most severe, signs and symptoms of low blood glucose include:
- Color draining from the skin
- Feeling weak or having no energy
- Blurred/impaired vision
- Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks
- Nightmares or crying out during sleep
The only sure way to know whether you are experiencing low blood glucose is to check your blood glucose levels, if possible. If you are experiencing symptoms and you are unable to check your blood glucose for any reason, treat the hypoglycemia.
A low blood glucose 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 glucose 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 glucose stays low for too long, starving the brain of glucose, it may lead to seizures, coma, and very rarely death.
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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.
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.
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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.
What Is The Best Thing To Eat When Your Blood Sugar Is Low
To avoid overtreating lows with too much simple carbohydrate or food and then facing a rebound high blood sugar, its best to have go-to automatic corrections for hypoglycemia that are quantity limited and unappealing to overeat. Glucose tablets and gels, and candies like Smarties, are predictable, relieve low symptoms quickly, and are hard to overeat. Some people with diabetes count out jelly beans, mini-Swedish Fish, gummies, or hard candy and eat the exact amount that will help their blood sugar. Others take a specific amount of juice or another sugar-containing drink.
How do you know how much of your correction to consume? Similar to the 15-15 rule, the only way to discover exactly how much of your go-to correction your body needs is by checking your glucose levels, eating a source of sugar that has been measured out, and then checking again in roughly 15 minutes. This can help you adjust the amount of your source of sugar to raise your blood sugar to your target , but not overshoot. This is a precision dose of carbs. To learn more, read Adam Browns Defeating the Hypoglycemia Binge.
Do not use a low as a reason to eat treats this can cause your blood sugar to spike later. Plus, it connects a food reward with something you want to avoid , which is an easy way to develop a bad habit.
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Preventing Low Blood Sugar
If you have diabetes, these tips can help reduce your chances of getting low blood sugar:
- check your blood sugar regularly and be aware of the symptoms of a low blood sugar so you can treat them quickly
- always carry a sugary snack or drink with you, such as dextrose tablets, a carton of fruit juice or some sweets-if you have a glucagon injection kit, keep it with you at all times
- don’t skip meals
- be careful when drinking alcohol – don’t drink large amounts in a short space of time, and avoid drinking on an empty stomach
- take care when exercising – eating a carbohydrate-containing snack before exercise can help reduce the risk of a hypo
- have a carbohydrate-containing snack, such as biscuits or toast, before going to bed to stop your blood sugar level dipping too low while you sleep
If you keep getting low blood sugar, talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it.
How Do I Treat An Episode Of Hypoglycemia
The American Diabetes Association recommends the 15-15 rule for an episode of hypoglycemia:
- Eat or drink 15 grams of carbs to raise your blood sugar.
- After 15 minutes, check your blood sugar.
- If its still below 70 mg/dL, have another 15 grams of carbs.
- Repeat until your blood sugar is at least 70 mg/dL.
If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia but cant test your blood sugar, use the 15-15 rule until you feel better.
Note: Children need fewer grams of carbs. Check with your healthcare provider.
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What Causes Low Blood Sugar
There are different causes of hypoglycemia, such as:
Too much insulin: Injecting insulin lowers blood sugar more quickly than any other diabetes medication. The risk of low blood sugar is highest with short- and rapid-acting insulins. Fast-acting insulin is usually taken around meals because eating raises blood sugar, so it works quickly to counteract the rise in blood sugar. Taking short- and rapid-acting insulins without eating may result in a hypo.
Long-acting or basal insulin works the slowest out of all of the types of insulin. It is usually injected once or twice a day. Long-acting insulin mimics the bodys natural ability to constantly release a small amount of insulin throughout the day and night.
Intermediate-acting insulin works more slowly than fast-acting but is faster than basal insulin. They are often injected twice per day.
Insulin doses can overlap, which increases the risk of hypoglycemia. For example, taking a morning dose of intermediate-acting insulin as well as a dose of rapid-acting insulin before lunch can cause a stacking up of insulin levels in the body and increase the risk of a hypo.
- Gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is the slowing of stomach emptying, which can occur as a complication of diabetes. When food isnt emptied from the stomach very quickly, it isnt available to be digested and converted into sugar in the bloodstream. Hypoglycemia risk increases in people with gastroparesis who also take insulin.
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.
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Can A Continuous Glucose Monitor Help With Low Blood Sugar
A continuous glucose monitor measures the bodys glucose levels in real-time by sensing the glucose present in tissue fluid . A CGM typically provides your glucose level every five minutes, which can be really helpful for tracking and finding patterns in how your glucose changes throughout the day. With CGM you can see how much time you spend in your target glucose range each day , notice trends, and develop strategies to improve your diabetes management.
CGMs can sound alerts when glucose levels drop below a certain threshold or are predicted to do so soon. This can be especially helpful for people who experience hypoglycemia unawareness, nighttime low blood sugar, or frequent hypoglycemic events. CGMs also allow you to share your glucose readings with your loved ones and care-partners in real time, so that they can let you know or help you out if your blood sugar starts to drop.
If you are interested in trying CGM, ask your healthcare team if the technology is available to you. You can also try ten-days of CGM for free.
How Can Parents Help
Nearly every child with diabetes will have an episode of mild hypoglycemia at times. Rarely, an episode will be a serious emergency. You can help make this less likely, and be ready if it does happen. Here are some tips:
- Follow your childs diabetes care plan. This is the best way to keep their sugars in a healthy range. The plan will guide you on the timing of:
- blood sugar checks
If you have questions about how to prevent or treat hypoglycemia, or about the diabetes care plan, call your child’s diabetes health care team.
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What Causes Blood Sugar To Be High
Many things can cause high blood sugar , including being sick, being stressed, eating more than planned, and not giving yourself enough insulin. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to long-term, serious health problems. Symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Feeling very tired.
- Having blurry vision.
- Needing to urinate more often.
If you get sick, your blood sugar can be hard to manage. You may not be able to eat or drink as much as usual, which can affect blood sugar levels. If youre ill and your blood sugar is 240 mg/dL or above, use an over-the-counter ketone test kit to check your urine for ketones and call your doctor if your ketones are high. High ketones can be an early sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately.
Research And Statistics: How Common Is Hypoglycemia
Because hypoglycemia is largely a symptom of an underlying condition, its unclear exactly how common it is in the United States. However, heres what we do know:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 34.2 million people in the United States have diabetes. This is roughly 10.5 percent of the population, and the majority of these cases are type 2 diabetes.
- In the type 2 diabetes sphere, elderly adults are at highest risk for hypoglycemia unawareness. Previous research reported in Diabetes Care found that only 1 in 13 older adults with type 2 diabetes were able to correctly identify their symptoms.
- According to CDC data, 235,000 people with diabetes were admitted to the emergency room in 2016 due to hypoglycemia.
- Overall, the CDC estimates that 57,000 people with diabetes were hospitalized for hypoglycemia.
- Insulin excess is responsible for between 4 and 10 percent of deaths in patients with type 1 diabetes, according to past research published in Diabetes Care.
- A previous study identified a higher rate of hypoglycemia-related hospital visits in African American men with type 2 diabetes.
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How To Calculate Your Blood Sugar Level: The Complete Guide
To get an accurate reading of your blood sugar level, the best and most effective method is using a glucose meter. This will involve a small prick in your finger so receive a blood sample. The strip is then inserted into the meter and tested.
You may be wondering what your reading should be. There is no normal reading, an ideal reading differs from person to person. Everyone will get different readings at different times of the day. However, there is a rough range to determining a low, normal and high blood sugar level. Blood sugar level is read in mmol/L, which stands for millimoles per liter. Here is a guide as to what an ideal reading is for each diabetic type and non-diabetic patients:
|4 5.9 mmol/L< 7.8 mmol/L||4 5.9 mmol/L< 7.8 mmol/L|
It is advised to check it regularly if you are concerned, show regular symptoms or have diabetes. You should check before meals, exercise, before bedtime and after driving. Everyone is different so it is best to ask your doctor if you are unsure how many times and when you should check your blood sugar levels.
Research shows that over 50% who try to estimate their blood sugar level reading are incorrect. This may be due to over underlying medical conditions that did not know they had or poor lack of judgement. Therefore, this suggests it is very important to test at home to check in on your levels regularly to avoid any unnecessary future complications.