Hypoglycemia - Symptoms

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What were the symptoms and signs of your hypoglycemia?

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What are symptoms of hypoglycemia, and how low is too low?

The normal range of glucose in the bloodstream is from 70 to 100 mg/dL when the individual is fasting (that is not immediately after a meal). The body's biochemical response to hypoglycemia usually starts when sugars are in the high/mid 70's. At this point, the liver releases its stores and the hormones mentioned above start to activate. In many people, this process occurs without any clinical symptoms. The amount of insulin produced also declines in an attempt to prevent a further drop in glucose.

While there is some degree of variability among people, most will usually develop symptoms suggestive of hypoglycemia when blood glucose levels are lowered to the mid 60's. The first set of symptoms are called adrenergic (or sympathetic) because they relate to the nervous system's response to hypoglycemia. Patients may experience any of the following;

  • nervousness,
  • sweating,
  • intense hunger,
  • trembling,
  • weakness,
  • palpitations, and
  • often have trouble speaking.

In most people, these symptoms are easily recognizable. The vast majority of individuals with diabetes only experience this degree of hypoglycemia if they are on medications or insulin. People (with diabetes or who have insulin resistance) with high circulating levels of insulin who fast, diet, or lower their carbohydrate intake drastically should also be cautioned. These individuals may also experience modest hypoglycemia.

People being treated for diabetes who experience hypoglycemia may not experience symptoms as easily as people without diabetes. This phenomenon has been referred to as hypoglycemic unawareness. This can be dangerous as blood sugars may approach extremely low levels before any symptoms are perceived.

Anyone who has experienced an episode of hypoglycemia describes a sense of urgency to eat and resolve the symptoms. And, that's exactly the point of these symptoms. They act as warning signs to tell the body to consume more fuel. At this level, the brain still can access circulating blood glucose for fuel. The symptoms provide a person the opportunity to raise blood glucose levels before the brain is affected.

If a person does not or cannot respond by eating something to raise blood glucose, the levels of glucose continue to drop. Somewhere in the 50 mg/dl range, most patients progress to neuro-glyco-penic ranges (meaning that the brain is not getting enough glucose). At this point, symptoms progress to confusion, drowsiness, changes in behavior, coma, and seizure.

Return to Hypoglycemia

See what others are saying

Comment from: carla, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 12

Well, I was told in December I had type 2 diabetes and was given medicine for it. I already have coronary artery disease (CAD) and the day before my birthday January 17 2014, I had a stroke with a seizure. I never had a seizure before, my heart doctor told me I had hypoglycemia. I told him I was light headed and became delusional; I could here people talking but vaguely and could see nothing, it happened so fast. I didn"t even have any sign of nothing, one minute I was fine the next bam! Anyway my sister said I was out for at least 20 minutes when I came to. I threw up for at least 20 minutes and was starving and my vision was really blurry; I still have that. He said I was lucky to be alive, I stay with headaches, ears ringing and really tired but when I'm feeling tired it a sign for me I guess still I'm learning. This is where I'm at with my hypoglycemia, good luck to all.

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Comment from: dolllbaby29, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: March 13

I was also told that I am hypoglycemic at the emergency room after having a seizure in the street. After describing the symptoms I had before the seizure, the doctor said it sounded like a hypoglycemic seizure. After tests it was confirmed. My symptoms started with me feeling lightheaded, then I started to sweat but my hands felt cold and clammy, I then started to shake. I felt like I needed sugar (although, I didn't know I was hypoglycemic, nor did I know anything about it at that time) I went to the store and bought a soda thinking it would make me feel better. That did not work! As I was walking trying to get home, I started to feel worse and worse. I was seeing things that were not even there; like hallucinations. My heart started to race and it was like my body started to panic, but my brain was very calm. I knew that I was going to have a seizure by then and I just wanted to get home so I wouldn't have it in the street. I started slightly convulsing while I was still lucid and that was the last thing I remember. Next thing I knew I was awake on the ground with strangers around me calling an ambulance. The doctor told me that soda was the wrong thing to get and that next time I start to feel the lightheaded feeling, to drink orange juice, apple juice, or eat chocolate or pure sugar. Soda actually doesn't have as much sugar as you think. Apple juice and orange juice have more sugar. Now to help prevent any more seizures, I make sure I eat 3 to 4 big meals or 5 to 6 small meals a day and I always carry chocolate and sugar on me at all times. If your hypoglycemia causes you to have seizures and you wait too long to put sugar into your body when feeling seizure-ish, it won't matter you will still have a seizure. You must put sugar into your body as soon as you start having symptoms!

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