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What Is It When Your Blood Sugar Is Low

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Signs And Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar

What Is a Low Blood Sugar and What Can You Do About It

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.

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:

Child
4 5.9 mmol/L< 7.8 mmol/L4 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.

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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Causes Of Blood Sugar Levels

Whilst the liver and muscles produce some glucose, most comes from the foods we eat. Food and drinks that are high in carbohydrates are most impactful on blood sugar level. What we eat provides us most of the nutrients our body needs and sometimes, does not need. That is not to say that food is a major cause of blood sugar level increasing or decreasing too dramatically.

Typically, if a person has health conditions or poor nutrition, this will lead to a spike or decline in blood sugar level. The causes differ from high to low blood sugar levels and are as follows:

What To Do If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

Help for Hypoglycemia: Understanding Low Blood Sugar

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 2, 2022.

Low blood sugar levels can happen with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Low levels are more likely to happen if you use insulin. Hypoglycemia can cause you to have falls, accidents, and injuries. A blood sugar level that gets too low can lead to seizures, coma, and death. Learn to recognize the symptoms early so you can get treatment quickly.

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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.

Prevent Low Blood Sugar Levels:

Prevent low blood sugar by knowing what increases your risk. Ask your healthcare provider for ways to prevent low blood sugar levels. Any of the following can increase your risk of low blood sugar:

  • Fasting for tests or procedures
  • During or after intense exercise
  • Late or postponed meals
  • Sleeping
  • Drinking alcohol if you use insulin or insulin releasing pills

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What Causes Reactive Hypoglycemia

Reactive hypoglycemia comes from having too much insulin in your blood. It usually happens within a few hours after you eat. Other possible causes include:

  • Having prediabetes or being more likely to have diabetes

How We Care For Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycaemia – How to Treat and Prevent Low Blood Sugar

At Boston Childrens Hospital, we treat hypoglycemia in our General Endocrinology Program, a multi-disciplinary program dedicated to the treatment of a wide range of endocrinological disorders. Caring for more than 7,000 patients each year, our division is one of the largest pediatric endocrinology practices in the country. We provide state-of-the-art diagnosis, treatment, and clinical management for children with hypoglycemia and related disorders.

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Symptoms Of Blood Blood Sugar Levels

Symptoms of blood sugar levels differ depending on if it is high or low. To determine which way the blood sugar have moved, the symptoms for each are typically:

High Blood Sugar Symptoms
Slow healing woundsTurning pale

If symptoms are left untreated, more extreme circumstances can happen such as fainting, weakness, disorientation, vomiting and dehydration. When you notice symptoms, usually more than one at one time, it is advised to see a doctor right away.

It is important to get the right treatment so that you can return to a healthy normal blood sugar level and inhibit it from occurring again.

Treatment methods vary from the severity of the blood sugar level, whether it is high or low and if the patient has existing medical conditions, such as diabetes. Here are ways in which blood sugar levels can be treated:

Nighttime Low Blood Sugars

You may experience a low blood sugar night. The low blood sugar might wake you up and your symptoms might be similar to those you have during the day. However, the symptoms may be different. You might have nightmares, sleep poorly, perspire, or feel hot and cold. In the morning you may have a headache, feel nauseated, or feel confused. Notify your doctor if this happens. Check your blood sugar at the time you have the symptoms.

Treatment for a low blood sugar that occurs at night is the same as described earlier.

Your doctor may request that you check a 3:00 a.m. blood sugar 1 to 2 times per week in order to detect any low blood sugars during the night.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Low Blood Sugar

Different people may feel low blood sugar levels differently. People with low blood sugar may:

  • feel hungry or have “hunger pains” in their stomach
  • feel shaky or like they’re trembling
  • have a rapid heart rate
  • feel sweaty or have cold, clammy skin
  • have pale, gray skin color
  • have a headache
  • have seizures or convulsions
  • lose consciousness

If you have diabetes, try to remember how your body reacts when your blood sugar levels are low. It may help you figure out when you’re having a low blood sugar level more quickly the next time.

Treating Someone Who’s Unconscious Or Very Drowsy

Low Blood Sugar

Follow these steps:

  • put the person in the recovery position and don’t put anything in their mouth so they don’t choke
  • give them an injection of glucagon medicine, if it’s available and you know how to do it – if not, call 999 for an ambulance
  • wait about 10 minutes if you’ve given them an injection move on to step four if the person wakes up and starts to feel better and call 999 for an ambulance if they don’t improve within 10 minutes
  • give them a sugary drink or snack, followed by a carbohydrate-containing snack the drinks and snacks used to treat a low blood sugar yourself should work
  • Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to lose consciousness.

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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.

    Knowing Your High And Low Blood Sugar Symptoms Allows You To Test

    Once you understand symptoms of high and low blood sugar, it is possible to test quickly and avoid serious problems.

    Keeping to a clear target range is one of the key goals of diabetes management, and knowing when you have the symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels allows you to test your blood sugar and make a correction.

    It can be important to recognise the difference between low and high blood sugar symptoms. Being able to spot when youre high or low and sugar can help you to manage your diabetes.

    Where possible, its best to check with your blood glucose meter, whether you are high or low, before taking any remedial action. If blood sugar is regularly high you may get recurrent episodes of thrush.

    High blood sugar is serious and can result in nausea, vomiting or loss of consciousness. In type 2 diabetes, this can in the form of a condition called Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State and in type 1 diabetes in the form of ketoacidosis.

    It is important to seek emergency medical help.

    Very low blood sugar can lead to convulsions and unconsciousness. It is important to seek emergency help if the person with diabetes is unable to bring their sugar levels back to normal.

    The University of Birminghams Medical School states that if the body becomes used to being low on sugar, hypo symptoms can become less noticeable. Loss of symptoms of low blood sugar in particular can be dangerous.

    If you have difficulty recognising the symptoms of hypoglycemia, speak to your doctor.

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    How To Treat Someone Who’s Having A Seizure Or Fit

    Follow these steps if someone has a seizure or fit caused by a low blood sugar level:

  • Stay with them and stop them hurting themselves lie them down on something soft and move them away from anything dangerous .
  • After the seizure or fit stops, give them a sugary snack.
  • Tell your diabetes care team if you ever have a severe hypo that caused you to have a seizure or fit.

    Low Blood Glucose During Sleep

    Treating 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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    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.

    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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    Questions Caregivers Should Ask

    As a family member, friend, or caregiver, you want to do your best to keep your loved one, friend, or patient safe from severe hypoglycemia. But knowing whats best can be overwhelming. Here are some questions to help you get started.

    • What are my loved ones/friends/patients chances for severe hypoglycemia?
    • How often should my loved one/friend/patient check their blood glucose?
    • What should I do if there is no change after giving the glucagon?
    • What would be the best food or drink to give my loved one/friend/patient once they wake up?
    • Should I talk with a diabetes educator?
    • How can I help treat their hypoglycemia?

    THE DEVELOPMENT OF THESE RESOURCES WERE MADE FROM THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF LILLY DIABETES AND XERIS PHARMACEUTICALS, INC.

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    Low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia and occurs when blood sugar levels fall below 70 mg/dL. Low blood sugar can become life-threatening if it becomes severe, so its essential that people with diabetes and those caring for them know which foods to eat when low blood sugar occurs.

    Suppose someone has repeated incidents of low blood sugar. In that case, they may develop hypoglycemia unawareness, which is when they dont notice low blood sugar symptoms as quickly as they once could. Hypoglycemia unawareness increases the risk of severe hypoglycemia, so treating and preventing hypoglycemia is very important for the health and safety of people with diabetes.

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    Why Do These Symptoms Matter For Diabetics

    These symptoms are essential for diabetics to understand, because they may encounter high or low blood sugar levels from time to time.

    A cold or virus can cause sudden high blood sugar levels, and understand the symptoms means knowing how to deal with hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.

    People with diabetes who can recognise the symptoms can avoid levels that lead to medical emergencies such as diabetic ketoacidosis

    High Blood Sugar Level Causes

    Several types of diabetes and medical conditions are the primary cause of high blood sugar levels. Most of which are unpreventable issues but are the reason for a spike in high blood sugar. The causes for high blood sugar levels are as follows:

    Causes of low blood sugar levels are very different and are as important to be aware of, as they are in fact easier to control.

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