What is hypoglycemia?
There are two types of hypoglycemia:
- Reactive hypoglycemia: This usually occurs after having a meal.
- Fasting hypoglycemia: Often associated with medications or disease. Enzyme deficiencies are the main underlying cause of fasting hypoglycemia.
What causes hypoglycemia?
Causes of hypoglycemia include:
- Diabetes medication overdose (oral medicines or insulin)
- Fasting for prolonged period
- Diet changes
- Changes in metabolism
- Liver disease
- Tumor of the pancreas
- Abnormalities in a hormone-secreting gland
- Post weight-loss surgery
- Drugs such as ethanol, haloperidol, pentamidine, quinine
- Deficiency of hormones
- Serious illness of heart, liver and kidney
- Growth hormone insufficiency
- Rare enzyme defects
- Unknown causes
What are the first signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia?
The following signs and symptoms occur when blood sugar goes below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL):
- Pale skin
- Cold and moist skin
- Fast/irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty in speaking
Worsening of hypoglycemia results in:
How is hypoglycemia treated?
Hypoglycemia is primarily treated with medications. The main medications used in the treatment of hypoglycemia include:
- Glucose supplements: Dextrose
- Glucose-elevating agents: Glucagon
- Inhibitors of insulin hormone secretion: Diazoxide
- Anticancer agents: Streptozocin
Other therapies are:
- Dietary changes such as frequent snacking
- Intravenous glucose infusion
- Intravenous octreotide
- Dietary changes such as restriction of refined carbohydrates and avoidance of sugar
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors such as acarbose
Surgical treatment might be necessary for any tumor of the pancreas.
What should I know about hypoglycemia?
Severe hypoglycemia can be life-threatening and fatal. Patients with reactive hypoglycemia have a better chance of improvement with dietary changes.
Hypoglycemia, if severe, can lead to coma, heart problems, impaired memory, diminished language skills and impaired coordination.
Other recommendations are:
- Do not skip meals, especially if you have diabetes and are taking medications.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes to one hour after meals.
- Monitor blood sugar levels routinely.
- Avoid excessive dosing of medications.
- Drink alcohol moderately.
- Include a balanced diet in your routine.
- Avoid consumption of sugar.
- Avoid driving if you have hypoglycemia.
Patients with hypoglycemia should learn to recognize early symptoms to avoid serious complications.
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Normal Blood Sugar Levels In Adults with Diabetes
People with diabetes can manage and prevent low or high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia) by keeping a log of your blood sugar levels when you are eating and fasting and eat foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar, for example, buttered potatoes, candy, sugary desserts, and fatty foods.
Blood tests, for example, the hemoglobin A1c test (A1c test) and urinalysis can diagnose the type of diabetes the person has. Diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, should be managed by you and your OB/GYN or another healthcare professional.
Extremely high levels of blood glucose in the blood can be dangerous and life threatening if you have type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes.
If you or someone that you are with has extremely high blood glucose levels, call 911 or go to your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department immediately.
To prevent and manage high blood glucose levels in people with diabetes keep a log of your blood sugar levels, eat foods that are high in carbohydrates sugar, for example, buttered potatoes, candy, sugary deserts, and fatty foods that you can share with your doctor and other healthcare professionals.