Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
The dangers of low blood glucose
At some time, most people with diabetes experience the sweating and shakiness that occurs when blood glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dl — a condition known as hypoglycemia. The average person with type 1 diabetes may experience symptoms of low blood glucose up to two times a week. However, not all are aware that these symptoms can rapidly progress to seizures, coma and even death if hypoglycemia is severe.Though hypoglycemia can be common and occur repeatedly in some people with diabetes, symptoms of low blood glucose should always be taken seriously.People with diabetes and their families, friends or coworkers should be prepared to act quickly and responsibly at the earliest signs of low blood glucose.
Early signs of hypoglycemia:
Late signs of hypoglycemia:
What causes low blood glucose?
No symptoms? Be alarmed
Surprisingly, the most dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia occur with little or no warning.When low blood glucose occurs on a regular basis, the body can become used to the warning signs and the person may stop noticing symptoms. This is a particularly dangerous condition known as hypoglycemic unawareness. People with this condition might not realize they have low blood glucose until it's dangerously low — seizures and coma are sometimes the first indication of a problem.The good news is that this condition can often be reversed — allowing people to once again notice the signs of low blood glucose — if hypoglycemia is avoided for a few weeks through careful monitoring of blood glucose.
How can I prevent low blood glucose?
All people with diabetes:
Keep a fast-acting carbohydrate in your bag, desk drawer, car and other places for easy access. Good options include hard candy, fruit juice or glucose paste or tablets, which can be purchased at most pharmacies.
Make an emergency plan
Friends, relatives, coworkers and caregivers should be trained to recognize the signs of low blood glucose and know what to do — including how to inject glucagon in case of an emergency — as well as what not to do.
Reviewed by Dr. Rita R. Kalyani and Dr. Mark D. Corriere from the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism.