Hypoglycemia is a condition where a person has low blood sugar. Blood sugar is also referred to simply as glucose, and people who are considered hypoglycemic have glucose levels well below normal.
Patients receiving treatment for diabetes are at risk of becoming hypoglycemic since their medications work to reduce blood sugar. Sometimes, patients are not eating or drinking enough to offset the medication, so the effects become too strong. Several other conditions and medications can also contribute to hypoglycemic episodes.
When glucose levels in the blood become too low, the affected persons will need immediate treatment. Treatment can be quick and self-administered. Or, in severe cases, medical assistance may be needed. People who are prone to hypoglycemia require long-term management and treatment for it.
The following sections will outline the most prevalent symptoms and treatments associated with this condition.
Symptoms of Hypoglycemia
Symptoms of low blood sugar can include:
• Fast or irregular heartbeat
• Pale skin
• Numbness or tingling in the face (tongue, lips, cheek)
If the condition worsens, additional symptoms can arise, such as:
• Vision problems/ blurred vision
• Abnormal behavior/ incapacitation
• Loss of consciousness
When Should You See a Doctor?
Sometimes, when a person exhibits signs of hypoglycemia, the situation calls for immediate medical intervention. Talk to a doctor if:
• Someone who does not have diabetes starts showing symptoms of hypoglycemia.
• Someone with diabetes and hypoglycemia doesn’t respond to initial treatment (ingesting sugar).
Furthermore, if someone is suffering from severe hypoglycemia symptoms like loss of consciousness, seek emergency help right away.
Treatment for Hypoglycemia
If someone is showing signs of hypoglycemia, the immediate treatment is as follows:
Consume 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates (fast-acting) through food or drink
Fast-acting carbohydrates are foods high in sugar but lacking protein or fat. Examples include glucose tablets or gel, regular soft drinks, fruit juice, and candy.
Check blood glucose levels again 15 minutes after eating or drinking
Blood sugar should rise to 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) or higher. If you have low sugar levels, repeat the above treatment until they return to a normal range.
Eat a meal or snack
Eating a typical meal or snack once blood sugar is back to normal can help further stabilize the body’s glycogen.
People with diabetes who take insulin should carry a glucagon kit for emergencies, and friends and family should know how to retrieve and use it. In severe cases of hypoglycemia, such as when a person cannot eat, a helper can use the kit to inject glucagon.
However, if someone helping cannot find the kit, does not know how to use it, or the sufferer is already unconscious, they should call emergency services.
Hypoglycemia & Hyperglycemia
When you consider hypoglycemia vs. hyperglycemia, the terms sound the same. However, they describe opposite problems. The “hypo” in hypoglycemia means low, so you know it refers to a reduced blood sugar problem. Conversely, the “hyper” in hyperglycemia means high. People experiencing hyperglycemia instead suffer from blood sugar levels that are abnormally elevated.
To summarize, multiple possible symptoms exist that can indicate someone is experiencing a hypoglycemic episode. If you know anyone with a history of diabetes or hypoglycemia, it could pay to familiarize yourself with the information covered here. Tandem Diabetes can help you live a positively different experience living with diabetes. Being aware of the signs and treatment recommendations could help you or someone else if the occasion arises.