- 1 What is hypoglycemia?
- 2 Causes of Hypoglycemia:
- 3 Signs and symptoms
- 4 Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia:
- 5 Treatment:
- 6 Hypoglycemia Prevention:
- 7 FAQ’s:
Have you come across a situation of uneasiness or confusion, anxiety with irritation, increased heart rates, or feeling of tremors of hand? If yes, these could mean your blood sugar levels are low. This could lead to a condition called Hypoglycemia. You need to eat a sugar-rich diet to bring the sugar levels back. Remember it can be fatal if left untreated.
Read the article below to get insights on signs and symptoms, causes and treatment of falling blood sugar levels.
What is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is a medical condition where the blood glucose level falls below the normal levels. If left untreated it can lead to severe health problems like a coma. One in every 25 patients suffering from type 1 diabetes dies due to severe hypoglycemia.
When the blood sugar levels fall below 70mg//dL it is an indication of Hypoglycemia.
Glucose in our Body:
Blood sugar known commonly as Glucose is the main source of energy. Our body generates glucose after decomposing the food we eat. Our bloodstream absorbs Glucose. It is through the bloodstream it travels to the body cells.
Our body produces a hormone known as Insulin. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. It is the Insulin that helps the body cells to use glucose for energy. With this energy, the body can do normal activities like walking, running, etc.
A low level of glucose (below 70 milligrams per deciliter) in our body causes Hypoglycemia.
Causes of Hypoglycemia:
Hypoglycemia is more common in patients with diabetes. Due to diabetes, the blood sugar levels are high. Insulin injections and medicines help in reducing blood sugar levels. Taking too much dose of medicine or insulin reduces blood sugar levels and causes Hypoglycemia.
How diabetes mellitus causes it:
Diabetes is of two types. When the body is producing less insulin it causes Type-1 diabetes. With less insulin, the absorption of glucose from the bloodstream decreases. Thus, there is a rise in blood glucose levels.
In type-2 diabetes, the body becomes less responsive to the insulin hormone. Thus again the glucose absorption decreases and the glucose levels in the bloodstream go high.
Diabetes patients take insulin injections and medicines to maintain proper blood glucose levels. Medicines used for maintaining proper blood glucose levels, include Glimepiride, Glipizide, etc.
People either skip their medicine dose or forget to take it. Sometimes they take an overdose of medicines or insulin injection. This causes a rise in insulin levels and leads to Hypoglycemia in patients with diabetes.
Low insulin production or infectiveness to insulin by the body causes Diabetes. Taking too much insulin during diabetes leads to hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia causes, without diabetes:
People without diabetes can also face the condition of Hypoglycemia. The main causes of hypoglycemia in such situation are:
- Due to medicines: It happens when you consume some medicines accidentally. Sometimes some medicines like Quinine used to treat malaria can cause hypoglycemia. Consult doctors before using such medicines.
- Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption without eating a proper diet affects the liver. It then affects blood glucose levels.
- Certain illnesses: Diseases like liver disease, kidney disorders; all impact the blood glucose levels. Therefore such diseases can lead to hypoglycemia.
- Eating disorder: people who eat less or suffer from anorexia nervosa have eating disabilities. Consequently, such people can suffer from hypoglycemia.
- Insulinoma: It is a condition where a tumor grows in the pancreas. Due to the tumor production of insulin increases in the body. More insulin causes more glucose absorption and thus decreases glucose levels resulting in hypoglycemia.
- Hormone disorders: Due to disorders in adrenal glands, pituitary glands there is a decrease in glucose production. This leads to hypoglycemia.
Diabetes, Hormone deficiencies, extreme illness, skipping meals, alcohol consumption are causes of Hypoglycemia.
Signs and symptoms
Hypoglycemia signs can be understood through 2 body response. These are:
Adrenergic responses: The counter-regulatory hormones like norepinephrine control the insulin action of decreasing the glucose levels in the blood. Any change in these hormones level can decrease the regulation of insulin. Body response to these changes and these responses serve as the early warning signs of hypoglycemia. These sings are:
- Diaphoresis (too much sweating)
- Hand tremor
- Tachycardia (increased heart rate), and
Neuroglycopenic response: Neuroglycopenic response occurs due to a deficiency of glucose levels within the brain. This results in rapid dysfunction of the central nervous system. The initial signs of this response are:
- Blurred vision
- Speech impairment
Serious condition signs: Ignoring initial signs and symptoms can lead to a bad situation. It is found that it can impact the medullary phase and can cause brain damage. The signs of this phase are:
- Deep coma,
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate),
- Shallow breathing, and
- Pupillary dilatation.
Early signs of Hypoglycemia are hunger, anxiety, sweating, irregular heartbeat, and confusion, and hand tremor. The serious condition leads to seizures and coma.
Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia:
For diabetes patients:
- Check the blood glucose levels whenever you feel any of the symptoms listed above.
- If the blood glucose reading is below 70 mg/dL, eat fast-acting carbohydrates.
For non-diabetes patients:
- f you don’t have diabetes but still have the symptoms of hypoglycemia, consult a doctor.
- The doctor will try to find out the cause by examining your medical history and symptoms.
- Blood tests are done if necessary. Blood tests may include glucose levels, hepatitis, deficiency of hormones.
For diabetes patients: Monitor your blood glucose levels daily. For the non-diabetes patient: if you notice any sign of hypoglycemia consults the doctor immediately.
Hypoglycemia requires quick attention as low blood sugar levels can cause problems like seizures and brain failure. Therefore, general treatment aims to bring the blood sugar levels to normal through food or medicines. The treatment for hypoglycemia varies as per the patient’s condition.
Treatment for Early Symptoms of Hypoglycemia:
Early Hypoglycemia treatment is based on the 15-15 rule.
- When you have early signs of hypoglycemia, eat 15 grams of food like a fast-acting carbohydrate. Due to fast-acting carbohydrates, blood glucose levels increase.
- After 15 minutes check the blood glucose levels again.
- If blood glucose levels are still below the normal eat again 15 grams of carbohydrate.
Repeat the above simple steps 1 to 3 times till your blood sugar levels are normal. Eat normal meals to maintain the blood sugar levels.
- Some fast-acting carbohydrates are Glucose tablets, raisins, 1 tablespoon honey, jelly beans, 1 tablespoon corn.
- Don’t eat complex carbohydrates or chocolates as they take time to digest. Due to which the rise of blood sugar levels is very slow.
- If the condition remains the same even after repeating the above steps 3 times, consult the doctor.
Treatment for Severe hypoglycemia:
- In an emergency condition, glucagon treatment is given. Glucagon helps in releasing stored glucose from the liver into the bloodstream. Due to which blood sugar levels rise rapidly.
- Glucagon 1 mg is given through intramuscular (IM), or subcutaneous (SC) injection.
- You should be trained in using the Glucagon emergency kit.
Treatment if the patient is unconscious:
- If the patient is unconscious intravenous glucose administration is done as per the dose recommended.
- As the patient recovers from unconsciousness’, oral glucose can be given.
- It is recommended to admit the patient in severe hypoglycemia condition.
Specific Prevention if you have diabetes:
- Follow the diabetes management plan you and your doctor have developed.
- Before changing any medicines, or food, or exercise, talk to your doctor before.
- Make use of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) kit and monitor glucose levels daily.
- Always keep with you fast-acting carbohydrate or glucose tablets for treating falling blood sugar levels
Prevention in general:
To prevent hypoglycemia, follow these steps:
- Monitor your blood glucose level several times a week or twice a day.
- Avoid postponing or skipping a meal or snack. Follow a proper meal plan.
- Measure the dose of medicines carefully, and take it on time.
- In case of increased physical activity, adjust your medications and meals depending on the requirement.
- Carry a medical identification bracelet to help others know that you have diabetes, in case of emergency.
Last but not least
To safeguard yourself from the unpleasant symptoms and negative consequences of hypoglycemia, follow the two simple rules:
- Practice good diabetes management plan.
- Monitor your blood sugar level as often as possible.
- Keep with you simple carbs rich diet like glucose tablets, an apple, a banana, an orange, etc.
Can we take Coffee or Tea in Hypoglycemia?
Overdose of certain medicines can also lead to the same condition as hypoglycemia. What should be done in such a situation?
In such a situation it is recommended to take the patient to the hospital. Such hypoglycemia may last more than 24 hours and can be dangerous.
If the symptoms get repeating what should one do?
If the symptoms are repeating you must consult the doctor immediately. It is time to change your medicine dose and diet plan.
What are fast-acting carbohydrates?
These are food products that help in releasing glucose instantly. These include Honey, corn syrup, and Glucose tablet or glucose gel.