Low Blood Sugar
One often hears a lot about diabetes, that is, high blood sugar. However, there is a condition that is exactly opposite of diabetes. It is known as low blood sugar. In this article, we shall learn about the pathophysiology of low blood sugar and the health risks pertaining to this condition.
What is Low Blood Sugar?
Low blood sugar is medically known as hypoglycemia. When the blood sugar levels in the body fall abnormally low it leads to a variety of symptoms in the patient. It is important to overcome low blood sugar as it could lead to fatal consequences.
What Causes Low Blood Sugar?
There are many causes of low blood sugar. One of the most common reasons is taking medications for diabetes. It may occur as a side effect of the medications taken to control the rise in blood glucose. At times the medications fail to maintain balance and cause a fall in blood sugar levels. Also, if the patient does not eat on time, skips meals or does not follow proper dosage or time of dosage for drugs, it may lead to hypoglycemia. Other than this, other causes of low blood sugar include:
- Heavy drinkers often develop low glucose levels as it affects their liver. This causes blockage in the release of glucose into the blood from the liver.
- There are many diseases affecting the kidneys as well as pancreas that lead to a drop in blood glucose levels.
- People who have undergone a stomach surgery like gastric bypass surgery can suffer from enlargement of cells of the pancreas. This causes the pancreas to release more insulin leading to drop in blood sugar levels.
- Another condition that affects patients of gastric bypass surgery is postprandial hypoglycemia. It is a condition where the body starts producing more insulin than needed after having a meal. Thus, causing a sudden drop in glucose level in blood.
- People suffering from digestive ailments that does not allow proper breakage of starch into glucose can lead to hypoglycemia
Who are At Risks of Developing Low Blood Sugar?
Hypoglycemia usually affects very young or very old people. Children who suffer from
- Severe diarrhea due to rotavirus gastroenteritis,
- Type 1 glycogen storage disease, etc.
can lead to hypoglycemia. In older people, it can be due to:
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Pancreatic tumors
- Ketoacidosis, etc.
Many times, people who carry out prolonged fasting or crash dieting too leads to low blood sugar.
What are the Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar?
The symptoms of low blood sugar depend on the level of drop in blood sugar. Low blood sugar is thus categorized into mild hypoglycemia, moderate hypoglycemia and severe hypoglycemia. Let us have a look at the symptom according to the categories:
- Causes one to feel extremely hungry
- May lead to a feeling or sensation of vomit
- Nervousness or anxiousness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Skin appears cold and clammy
- A person becomes extremely agitated
- Vision problems
- Unsteady gait
- Loss of balance
- Pale skin
Severe hypoglycemia deprives the brain from receiving sugar. Thus,
- A person may lose consciousness
- Suffer from seizures
- Decrease in thinking ability
- Death, in extreme cases.
How is Low Blood Sugar Diagnosed?
Blood tests help in diagnosing hypoglycemia. When the blood sugar level is below 4.0 mmol/L, it means the patient is suffering from hypoglycemia.
How is Low Blood Sugar Treated?
The best and immediate treatment for low blood sugar level is eating or drinking foods that contain at least 10-20 grams of carbohydrate. The patient should drink fruit juice that contains fructose like apple or orange juice. If available drinking a can of carbonated soda will also help. Other than that eating a biscuit, cracker or slice of bread will also help in raising the sugar level. Drinking a glass of milk, sucking on a hard candy will also be helpful.
The doctor may advise the use of glucose tablets to long term sufferers of low blood sugar. Some may be asked to keep glucagons injections at home in case of emergency.
Regular blood checkup will help in maintaining the blood sugar levels in both patients of hyperglycemia as well as hypoglycemia. If one experiences low blood sugar regularly, they should keep a packet of biscuits, juice, raisins or fruits handy at all times. They should not skip meals and have their food on time. Diabetics should also follow their dosage as well as dosage time religiously. If one experiences extreme symptoms, they should call into an emergency ward immediately.
Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 4, 2015