What is Hypoglycemia?
In hypoglycemia, the blood sugar levels fall below 70 milligrams per deciliter.(1) In severe states, hypoglycemia can be dangerous if proper treatment is not given. The main focus of the treatment is to return the blood sugar to normal.
Blood sugar is the body’s main source of energy. If the level falls the body is not able to function fully. This is called hypoglycemia.
Insulin plays the role of absorbing sugar from the bloodstream. Those suffering from diabetes take insulin shots as their body is not able to produce enough insulin or is resistant to insulin. In some cases, if the insulin is taken in excess the blood sugar drop below normal and leads to hypoglycemia.
Sometimes if people with diabetes do not eat enough or exercise excessively after taking insulin, the body shows similar effects.
Symptoms of Hypoglycemia
The symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Blurred vision
- Extreme hunger
- Pale skin
- A feeling of tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, and cheeks
- Personality change
If a person suffers from hypoglycemia often, he may be unaware of the symptoms. This is known as hypoglycemia unawareness.
What Causes Hypoglycemia Without Diabetes?
People without diabetes experience hypoglycemia when the body produces excess insulin after meals, which causes the blood sugar to drop. This is known as reactive hypoglycemia.
Reactive hypoglycemia can also be an early sign of diabetes in a few people. There are also other health issues that can lead to hypoglycemia without diabetes.
Drinking Alcohol in Excess
When the blood sugar is low, a hormone called glucagon is released from the pancreas. This hormone signals the liver to break down stored energy. The liver releases glucose back into the bloodstream to bring back the blood sugar levels to normal.
Excessive alcohol consumption can make it difficult for the liver to function and hence it is not able to release the glucose back into the bloodstream.
This leads to temporary hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia can be a side effect of certain medications, such as:
- Malaria medications
- Pneumonia medications
- Some antibiotics
- Also, taking someone’s diabetes medication can lead to hypoglycemia.
- People with kidney failure and children have an increased risk of medication-induced hypoglycemia.
Hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver and its functioning.
The liver is not able to release glucose, causing problems with blood sugar levels leading to hypoglycemia.
The kidney plays a role in processing medication and excreting waste.
In someone suffering from a kidney problem, the medication is not excreted and is stored in the bloodstream. This can change the blood sugar level and lead to hypoglycemia.
Pituitary Gland Disorders
The pituitary gland affects the hormone that controls glucose.
Any problem with this gland affects the control and can lead to hypoglycemia.
Those with surgery of the stomach, to alleviate symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, may be at risk of dumping syndrome.
In late dumping syndrome, excess insulin is released by the body in response to the carbohydrate-rich meal. This can lead to hypoglycemia.
How is Hypoglycemia Treated?
It is important to identify the cause of hypoglycemia to determine the right long-term therapy.
In the short term, receiving glucose can help bring the blood sugar back to normal.
According to research, the best way to treat mild hypoglycemia is to take 15 grams of glucose, wait for 15 minutes and then check blood sugar. Repeat it, if hypoglycemia persists. (2)
Glucose can be taken in the form of tablets, fruit juice, injecting glucose, and eating carbohydrates.
How to Prevent Hypoglycemia?
Simple changes in the eating schedule can help in resolving hypoglycemia and preventing further episodes.
- Diabetics should keep a check on their blood sugar levels. They should follow a healthy and well-rounded diet. The medications should be taken as told by the doctor, and any changes needed to be made should be discussed.
- Nondiabetics should also eat their meals regularly and on time to prevent hypoglycemia. They should keep a few healthy snacks, in case of hunger, shakiness, or sweating.
If you frequently experiences low blood sugar symptoms, talk to your doctor. He can check on any underlying cause.
Hypoglycemia is a serious condition and can occur if the blood levels drop too low. If left untreated it can have serious effects and long health consequences.