Why Do You Have Low Blood Sugar and How to Treat It?

Low blood sugar is dangerous, but can be prevented easily. Here we give you best info about symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention of low blood sugar.

Even though diabetes can be caused by too much sugar, some of the most serious problems associated with the condition arise from low blood sugar. All diabetics are in danger from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

Low blood sugar can lead to serious health problems and adversely affect your lifestyle because sugar or glucose is one of the body’s main energy sources. Falling levels of blood sugar can lead to decreased energy that can noticeably affect health and behavior. Low levels of blood sugar can do serious damage to your brain because it needs sugar to operate properly.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar?

When the blood sugar is 70mg/dL or lower, most people can feel the symptoms of hypoglycemia. Every diabetic needs to be aware of the symptoms of low blood sugar because it can lead to serious health problems. Common symptoms of low blood sugar include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Uncontrolled hunger or cravings for food
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Loss of coordination
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Pale skin
  • Sweating

If these symptoms are not treated properly, serious health problems can result in:

  • Seizures
  • Brain damage
  • Fainting or passing out
  • Numbness in mouth and tongue
  • Comas
  • Accidents caused by seizures or inability to concentrate

When to Seek Medical Help

You have symptoms of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can be an indication of other illnesses. Diabetics should seek medical help under the following conditions:

  • When you experience any of the mental symptoms described above.
  • Persons using insulin or taking diabetes medication should contact their doctor as soon as possible if they suffer from any of those symptoms.
  • One should also contact a doctor if their blood sugar does not return to 70mg/dL after eating a sugary food.

You will need to get treatment because your body changes over time. The way drugs affect the glucose levels in the blood changes which means the doctor may need to change the medication or the dosage. Do not delay seeking medical help, because low blood sugar can cause permanent damage to brain, blood vessels or various organs if left untreated.

What Causes Low Blood Sugar?

1. Diabetes and Drugs

Contrary to popular belief, diabetes is not the only cause of low blood sugar; it is simply the most common cause. Interestingly enough, the drugs used to treat diabetes that lower the level of glucose are the main reasons why diabetics often suffer from hypoglycemia.

The flowing drugs are often associated with low blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  • Insulin
  • Chlorpropamide (Diabinese)
  • Tolazamide (Tolinase)
  • Acetohexamide (Dymelor)
  • Glipizide (Glucotrol)
  • Tolbutamide (Orinase)
  • Glyburide (Micronase)
  • Glimepiride (Amaryl)
  • Repaglinide (Prandin)
  • Nateglinide (Starlix)

Diabetics sometimes suffer from hypoglycemia because they take too much medication or do not eat enough. A common cause is injecting insulin without eating a meal. Drinking alcohol and eating too little or dieting can lead to the problem as well.

2. Other Medical Conditions

There are some other medical conditions that can cause low blood sugar. Non-diabetics that suffer from its symptoms should contact a doctor immediately because it can be a sign of serious health problems. Other causes of hypoglycemia include the following:

  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or alcoholism
  • Hepatitis
  • Kidney problems
  • Tumors in the pancreas
  • Gland deficiencies and other endocrine disorders
  • Medications like quinine

How Is Low Blood Sugar Treated?

1. Immediate Initial Treatment

Every diabetic and his or her loved ones should know the basics of treating low blood sugar. Fast treatment is vital in order to prevent damage.

Fortunately, there is a simple and fast treatment for diabetics that begin experiencing symptoms. The diabetic should consume one of the following foods or medications right away:

  • Three to four glucose tablets
  • A tube of glucose gel
  • Four to six pieces of hard candy
  • An ordinary sized candy bar or a standard bag of M&Ms
  • ½ cup of regular soda pop or fruit juice
  • One cup of milk
  • Four or five saltine crackers or tortilla chips
  • A tablespoon of honey, molasses, or maple syrup (This should be placed on the tongue so it will be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly)
  • A tablespoon of sugar

Check the blood sugar level 15 minutes after eating to see if it has returned to normal (over 70mg/dL). If it has not, another serving of one of the foods listed above might be necessary. If it still does not normalize, contact your doctor right away.

If the diabetic starts to pass out, a glucagon injection might be necessary. If no home glucagon kit is available, call 911 for paramedics. The paramedics will have glucagon and other first aid supplies with them.

Persons that are having a severe case of hypoglycemia should not drive themselves to the hospital because of a risk of passing out and crashing. Never give food to a person that is starting to pass out, because he or she may choke.

2. Treatment of the Underlying Condition

If medication you are taking is the cause of hypoglycemia, your doctor will likely change the medication or the dosage. That is why it is so important to call the doctor whenever you suffer from symptoms of hypoglycemia.

If other problems are causing low blood sugar, such as a tumor in pancreas, other treatments, including surgery, are available. The doctor will have to perform medical tests to see if these are needed.

How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar

The good news is that low blood sugar can be easily prevented. Most diabetics can avoid it if they follow their doctor’s advice and stay on their diabetes maintenance plan.

The most important steps for preventing low blood sugar include:

  • Regularly testing your blood.
  • Eating whenever blood sugar levels fall below 100mg/dL. Diabetics should keep a supply of food with them so they can replenish blood sugar.
  • Eating regularly — three meals a day or more — to maintain an adequate level of blood sugar.
  • Taking steps to prevent diabetes by getting plenty of exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • Stopping the consumption of alcohol, which can cause low blood sugar and other health problems.

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