Depending on many factors your blood sugar levels will fluctuate up and down throughout the day. This is normal and you will not be able to notice it if it varies about a normal range. However, if it goes below the healthy range and is not treated, it can be dangerous. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar can be defined as a condition that arises when the blood sugar levels in the body go below normal levels. Hypoglycemia usually occurs when blood sugar is less than 70 mg/dL. You should talk to your doctor about what blood sugar level is considered too low for you. It has to be kept in mind that hypoglycemia is not a disease, rather it is an indicator of the possibility of health problems. Low blood sugar is sometimes referred to as an insulin reaction or an insulin shock.
What causes hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia usually occurs in diabetics. In people without diabetes, Hypoglycemia can occur due to the body producing too much insulin after food intake this is called reactive hypoglycemia. it usually happens a few hours after eating or in prediabetic conditions, stomach surgeries and rare enzyme disorders. Reactive hypoglycemia can be an early sign of diabetes. I
Another type of hypoglycemia is called Fasting hypoglycemia which may be related to a disease condition or certain medication. You don’t have to be a diabetic to have an episode of this either. Fasting hypoglycemia may be caused by some sulfa drugs (e.g. aspirin), consuming too much alcohol (binge drinking), diseases of the liver, kidney, heart and pancreas, low levels of some hormones and some tumour such as tumours in the pancreas.
In diabetics, hypoglycemia can occur due to diabetic medications, alcohol, and drugs such as allopurinol, probenecid, and warfarin.
Usually, these are the causes of hypoglycemia:
- Overusing insulin and medication (if your food consumption does not match the dose of insulin you are taking)
- excessive consumption of simple sugar foods
- Inadequate and irregular food intake
- Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms of hypoglycemia are various, depending on the severity and how long the condition has occurred.
- Pale skin
- Rapid and irregular heartbeats
- Blurred vision
- Passing out
- Loss of consciousness
How is it Treated?
Hypoglycemia could be treated by consuming sugar cautiously. Diabetics who experience hypoglycemia can consume 15-20 grams of carbohydrates. If hypoglycemia still occurs after 15 minutes, you should go to the hospital. Diabetics are advised to keep some sugar tablets or sweets with them especially if they experience frequent episodes of hypoglycemia. But remember this should be consumed only if you have a hypo and not for your sweet cravings!
For non-diabetic patients, the cause of hypoglycemia should be known to treat it. If caused by drugs, you should change the class of drugs by consulting your doctor. If the tumour is the cause, you need surgery to remove the tumour. If the patient passes out, they should go to the hospital immediately.
Hypoglycemia can be avoided by keeping the blood sugar levels stable within a normal range.
The following tips can help a diabetic patient to avoid hypoglycemia:
- Eat regularly 3 times a day and snack between meals.
- Exercise 30 minutes to 1 hour after eating, and always check your body sugar levels before and after exercise
- Be careful when using insulin and watch the dose of insulin. Make sure you take only the amount prescribed by your doctor.
- Avoid alcohol consumption.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels frequently
If you don’t have diabetes, you can avoid hypoglycemia by eating small portions of food every few hours. Make sure your food contains high protein, fat, and fibre, and avoid eating foods high in sugar. Low Glycemic carbohydrates are a healthy option even for non-diabetics.