Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar Levels)
Low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia is a condition when your body doesn’t have enough sugar to generate energy. The sugar in our body breaks down into simpler components and provides us energy. For example, the food we eat has some amounts of sugar and through the process of respiration and digestion, it degrades from complex to simpler molecules. This is the process that occurs in a healthy individual. On the other hand, any imbalance in the handling of sugar levels may cause either hyperglycemia(high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia(low blood sugar). In this article, we will focus on hypoglycemia.
What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is a condition when your blood glucose levels are lower than normal. Certain conditions can lead to low blood sugar levels such as diabetes treatment, diet, medications, or insulin imbalance.
It is important to understand that hypoglycemia is just a medical condition and not a disease. A blood sugar level below 70 milligrams per deciliter (70mg/dl) is considered hypoglycemia. Sugar or sugary food/ drink consumption on an urgent basis is necessary to combat low blood sugar.
How to spot low blood sugar levels?
A low blood sugar levels result in the following signs and symptoms:-
- Pale skin
- Pale skin
- Numbness in lips, tongue and cheek
In severe hypoglycemia, the signs & symptoms may also include:-
- Irritated or abnormal behaviour
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
What causes low blood sugar levels?
Mostly, hypoglycemia results due to side effects of diabetic medicines. However, it may also happen because of a disturbed routine or poor eating habits.
Common reasons for low blood sugar levels:-
- Blood sugar imbalance
Anything we eat has an amount of sugar, which breaks down into simpler sugars and releases energy. Hence, your body gets its fuel after you eat.
If the person hasn’t eaten anything for several hours, it might lower his blood sugar levels.
If the person has type 1 diabetes, they might not make sufficient insulin and in type 2 diabetes, they are not responsive to the produced insulin. Consequently, the glucose levels may fluctuate between high and low in the bloodstream.
Sometimes, diabetic medicines or too much insulin can also result in low blood sugar levels.
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Consuming heavy alcohol without eating can block the liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream.
- Insulin overproduction
Insulinoma, a rare pancreas tumour can cause the system to release more insulin leading to hypoglycemia. Also, the enlargement of the pancreas may result in excessive insulin production and hypoglycemia.
- Hormone deficiencies
Certain medical conditions that cause deficiency of some key hormones can result in hypoglycemia.
How can low blood sugar be treated?
For non-diabetic people
People who observe signs of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia should consume 15-20 grams of carbohydrates such as:-
- A sugar candy
- A sugar lump
- A glass of juice
- Glucose drink (eg. Glucon D) or Glucose biscuits (Parle G)
Then, they should check their blood sugar levels after 15 minutes, also, eat snacks and repeat until blood sugar levels come to their normal levels.
For diabetic people
A diabetic person can follow the 15:15 rule. In this method, the person needs to check their blood sugar levels. Then, consume 15g of carbohydrates and wait for 15 minutes and again check the sugar levels.
If still, the sugar levels are low, repeat the process. Eat some carbohydrates, wait for 15 minutes and recheck the sugar levels. People with diabetes need to follow a regular eating schedule to prevent low blood sugar levels.
In severe conditions
If the hypoglycemia is severe, the person cannot handle it by himself and someone else needs to help them in taking glucagon through an injection. If the person faints due to low blood sugar levels, a glucagon injection may help them regain their consciousness within 5-15 minutes, though mild symptoms of nausea and vomiting might be felt.
If someone has diabetes or hypoglycemia, they should plan a good diet with their doctor.
They can follow:-
- Eating snacks or small meals every two or three hours.
- Consuming food enriched with protein, high- fibre and high-fats.
- Avoid high sugary foods
Do not drive with hypoglycemia
People having hypoglycemia should avoid driving as it could be life-threatening. They should wait for their blood sugar levels to get normal. Even during the normal conditions, they should keep some quick-acting carbohydrates such as juice or glucose powder in their cars.
Prevention from low blood sugar
Prevention is better than cure, thus by modifying routine people can prevent low blood sugar levels.
There are some important tips to prevent low blood sugar:-
- Keep your lifestyle active and exercise daily
- Take care of your diet and don’t skip breakfast
- Take medical checkups routinely
- Avoid drinking and smoking
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels is a condition where the blood sugar falls below 70mg/dl. However, mild shifts in blood sugar levels are manageable and with a good and healthy lifestyle. In rare cases, one may need medical support to manage severe hypoglycemia.
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