Hypoglycemia

What is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is the condition of having a glucose (blood sugar) level that is too low to effectively fuel the body's blood cells. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body. The good range of blood sugar is approximately 70 to 150 mg/dl (milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood). Blood sugar levels under 70 are too low and are considered unhealthy.

Hypoglycemia may be a condition by itself, or may be a complication of diabetes or other disorders. It is most often seen as a complication of diabetes, which is sometimes referred to as insulin reaction.

What Causes Hypoglycemia?

Causes of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes may include:

  • too much medication
  • a missed meal
  • a delayed meal
  • too little food eaten as compared to the amount of insulin taken

Other causes of hypoglycemia are rare, but may occur in early pregnancy, after strenuous exercise, during prolonged fasting, as well as a result of taking certain medications, abusing alcohol, or other rare causes.

What are the Symptoms of Hypoglycemia?

The following are the most common symptoms for hypoglycemia, however, each individual may experience symptoms differently. The symptoms include:

  • shakiness
  • dizziness
  • sweating
  • hunger
  • headache
  • irritability
  • pale skin color
  • sudden moodiness or behavior changes, such as crying for no apparent reason
  • clumsy or jerky movements
  • difficulty paying attention, or confusion
  • tingling sensations around the mouth

The symptoms of hypoglycemia may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is Hypoglycemia Diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physician examination, certain blood tests are used to diagnose hypoglycemia.

When a person with diabetes has symptoms of hypoglycemia, then the cause is usually diagnosed as a complication of diabetes, or insulin reaction. It is often the result of the causes listed above.

For those who have symptoms of hypoglycemia and do not have diabetes, the disorder is diagnosed by:

  • measuring blood glucose levels while the person is experiencing the symptoms.
  • observing that the symptoms are relieved when the person eats food with a high content of sugar.

Laboratory tests to measure insulin production may also be performed.

Treatment for Hypoglycemia:

Specific treatment will be determined by your physician(s) based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disorder
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disorder
  • your opinion or preference

For persons with diabetes, the goal of treatment is to maintain a blood sugar level that is appropriate for each individual. This involves testing blood sugar often, learning to recognize the oncoming symptoms, and treating the condition quickly, based on prior instructions from the physician.

To treat low blood sugar immediately, you should eat or drink something that has sugar in it, such as orange juice, milk, or a hard candy.

For people who do not have diabetes, treatment (as directed by a physician) may include:

  • avoiding foods high in carbohydrates
  • eating smaller meals more frequently
  • frequent snacks
  • eating a variety of healthy foods
  • regular exercise

Our Services:

Learn more about the services offered at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology:

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 855-979-8667.

This page was last updated: May 6, 2014

         
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