Low blood sugar occurs when your blood glucose levels have dropped so far below the target that you must take measures to raise them. Typically, this occurs when your blood glucose level is lower than 70 mg/dL.
Discuss your personal blood glucose goals and what is too low for you with your diabetes care team.
Other names for low blood sugar include:
What is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is a condition where blood sugar (glucose) levels are below normal. Glucose serves as the body's primary energy source. Hypoglycemia is often related to diabetes treatment.
Persons without diabetes can experience low blood sugar due to various medications and ailments, many of which are unusual. For a fasting blood sugar of 70 mg/dL or 3.9 mmol/L or less, you should take it as a warning sign for hypoglycemia. However, your figures can be different. Consult a medical professional.
Treatment for hypoglycemia should start right away. The goal of treatment is to manage your blood sugar as promptly as possible, either with a high-sugar meal or beverage or by taking medication. For long-term treatment, it is necessary to determine and address the cause of hypoglycemia.
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia symptoms can appear suddenly, and different people will experience them in various ways. Symptoms are typically uncomfortable, but they serve as valuable reminders to act before your blood sugar levels fall further low.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Shaking or trembling
- Faster heart rate
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Sweating and chills
- Nervousness or irritability
- Pale skin
- Restless sleep
Other signs that you could experience as you sleep include:
- Wailing aloud
- Feeling worn out or bewildered after awakening
- Experiencing nightmares
- Sweating through your sheets or jammies
The brain does not receive enough sugar when a hypoglycemia episode worsens, which might result in:
- Cloudy vision
- Confusion or attention issues
- Flustered speech
- Face or mouth tingling or numbness
When experiencing a severe hypoglycemia episode, a person might:
What are the causes of low blood sugar?
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. Insulin is needed to carry glucose into cells, where it is stored and used as fuel. Low insulin levels cause glucose to build up in the circulation rather than transport to the cells. This leads to diabetes symptoms.
People with diabetes who take insulin or specific other medications to control their diabetes frequently experience low blood sugar. Many other diabetes medications, however, do not result in low blood sugar.
Low blood sugar can be brought on by any of the following:
- The glucose (sugar) in your body is depleted too quickly
- The body either produces too little glucose or releases it into the bloodstream too slowly
- There is too much insulin in the blood
- Exercise can cause low blood sugar in people with diabetes using insulin
- Babies whose mothers have diabetes may experience abrupt, dramatic reductions in blood sugar
Low blood sugar in people without diabetes could be caused by:
- Consuming alcohol
- A rare pancreatic tumor called an insulinoma that overproduces the hormone insulin
- Absence of a hormone, such as a thyroid hormone, growth hormone, or cortisol
- Severe heart, kidney, and liver failure
- Several weight-loss procedures (usually five or more years after weight-loss surgery)
- Certain antibiotics or heart drugs
What is the 15-15 rule?
According to the 15-15 rule, if your blood sugar is below 55 to 69 mg/dL, you should consume 15 grams of carbs and recheck it in 15 minutes. If it is still below your desired range, get another dish. Until it reaches your target range, repeat these steps. As soon as it is within the normal range, consume a nutritious meal or snack to keep it from dropping too low again.
You can get 15 grams of carbohydrates from:
- Four ounces of juice or normal soda
- One spoonful of syrup, honey, or sugar
- Jellybeans, gumdrops, or hard candies (see food label for how much to eat)
- Three to four glucose pills (follow instructions)
- One dose of glucose gel (usually one tube; follow instructions)
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose). https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/medication-treatments/blood-glucose-testing-and-control/hypoglycemia
Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/low-blood-sugar.html
Low blood sugar. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000386.htm
How To Treat Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/low-blood-sugar-treatment.html
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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.
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