Hypoglycemia – The Dangers of Low Blood Sugar Levels

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People with diabetes are normally concerned about their blood sugars, especially if they are experiencing higher than normal blood sugar levels, because that is the major diabetic problem in life that a person with diabetes normally has to deal with. But it is also important for the diabetic to be aware of a situation that is “opposite” to high blood sugar levels, a condition that doctors call hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia is characterized by an abnormally low level of blood sugar. The sugar carried in the bloodstream, called glucose, is an essential nutrient for the body and is the body’s main source of energy, needed constantly by the body’s cells.

Episodes of hypoglycemia are not common and are not often experienced by most adult diabetics or diabetic children of 10 years and older, but they do happen and the condition should be quickly recognized and treated promptly when it does. Hyoglycemia must be treated promptly because it can become progressively worse in a relatively short time, sometimes after tens of minutes, and can lead eventually to additional problems and in some extreme cases, it can become a life-threatening event.

From my own experience as a diabetic I suspect that most of my fellow diabetics have had a few such lower than normal blood sugar occurrences. Food is the source of the blood sugars, especially the carbohydrate content of food. One reason that a hypoglycemic event might occur in a diabetic person is when they have not eaten any food for too long a period of time. An additional or alternative cause might be when they have deliberately avoided consuming carbohydrates, ironic perhaps, because by not eating carbohydrates they wish to combat their own above normal blood sugars that they know can be caused by a high carbohydrate intake.

Just as the avoidance of too many high-carbohydrate foods is a standard recommendation in the treatment of diabetes, so too is the recommendation to participate in some form of exercise. However, sometimes too much exercise can cause blood sugar problems. The muscles involved in exercise require sugar, and low blood sugars can occur after having been involved in vigorous exercise at a time when the body has insufficient blood glucose to supply the necessary energy for the extra activity.

For the person with diabetes, it is not easy to know, without taking a blood test, whether or not they have above normal blood sugar levels but in the case of lower than normal blood sugars, the symptoms experienced are usually noticeable. When glucose levels become too low it can have an effect on the brain and often a sense of confusion and an inability to perform routine tasks becomes apparent. Should that happen, fortunately it can serve as a warning, an alert for the diabetic who is familiar with such symptoms to take immediate action to rectify the situation, usually by eating food that can provide a quick boost of sugar to their system.

Some other recognizable possible symptoms are sweating, anxiety and a sense of unease, trembling hands, perhaps heart palpitations, hunger pangs, blurred vision or other visual disturbances.

The important thing is to know what to do if and when it happens. Whenever a low blood sugar event occurs, a prompt response is needed.

The quick solution is to eat or drink a fast-acting glucose food item. The condition has occurred often enough to me to know what to do, my personal choice is to first drink half a glass of apple juice and I try to always keep a supply of apple juice available.

Possible food items to raise blood sugar levels back to normal, any one of the following:

a half glass or half cup, 4 ounces, of apple juice, orange juice, or similar fruit juice

a teaspoon of honey or sugar

glucose tablets, usual 3 or 4 are sufficient

5 or 6 pieces of hard candy

an 8-ounce glass of milk

a half glass of non-diet pop

Something containing about 15 grams of carbohydrate such as a fast acting energy bar or a serving of glucose-gel snack.

Be ready for an emergency even though it is a rare event

If a hypoglycemic event is not promptly treated and then progresses to a more serious stage, it can lead to a diabetic coma or seizure, even to the extent of becoming life threatening, I’m reluctant to say death but it can happen. The fact that this is known to happen underscores the need to be ready for an emergency of any degree. Try to always have a suitable supply of a fast acting glucose source readily available.



Type 2 Diabetes – Maybe Hypoglycemia Does Not Always Apply to Diabetes!

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If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve been starving, hypoglycemia is most likely more familiar to you than you would like. However, you can actually develop this problem even if you eat meals on a regular basis.

For some people, their overabundance of insulin can trigger their blood to absorb their sugar rapidly, and still want for more. Unfortunately, just as it is possible to have too much of a good thing, it is just as easy to have too little of it. This is a bizarre sort of seesaw, as your blood sugar and your insulin levels should ideally be in a state of perfect balance.

The bad news is, this is often not the case. Sometimes your body just does not quite respond as you would expect (or like), it to. The good news is that short-term hypoglycemia has no lasting effects on your brain or your body. Unfortunately, in many people’s cases the tendency is genetic, and needs to be kept from being harmful through carefully moderating their diets. But of course, there is the additional bad news in that long-term hypoglycemia can:

  • impair your mental faculties
  • reduce your ability to control your body, and
  • even cause you to lose consciousness and slip into a type of coma

Your body needs to use all of the sugar it gets, after all, and not using it well causes problems.

Hypoglycemia can also be a warning sign of an illness that is based in one of your internal organs. There are ample occasions in which hypoglycemia acts as a sort of signal that a worse ailment is present.

For instance, the over-production of insulin that we talked about earlier is officially known as hyperinsulinism.

You may also have an insulin-secreting pancreatic tumor, or an adrenal insufficiency. You may even have hypopituitarism, in which the pituitary gland may not be producing enough of one or more of its hormones to maintain your body’s internal balance.

While it may not be the worst thing that can happen inside your body, hypoglycemia is a fairly serious issue to have. Consider that it is essentially your body shutting down, just because it lacks the sugar it needs. Consider that the manifestations of this ailment are fairly large and frequent. The hypoglycemic person tends to be:

  • shaky
  • anxious and
  • nervous

They also tend to have heart palpitations, and heart problems such as tachycardia and palpitations, as well as feeling cold, clammy and having pallor.

A person having andrenergic manifestations can also feel warmer than might seem reasonable, as well as having a:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • intense hunger, and
  • the simultaneous “pins and needles” feeling that people report

Once you know how to spot hypoglycemia, you’ll know to just deal with it yourself and move on with your life.

It is possible to have low blood sugar levels without having diabetes. After your doctor checks your records and suspects more than Type 2 diabetes, he will order blood tests to measure your blood sugar and insulin levels, plus any other chemicals that play a part in your body’s energy use.