What is hypoglycemia?
"Hypo" means low. "Glycemia" has to do with the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood (blood sugar). So, hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar drops too low. Blood sugar is your body's main source of fuel, so low blood sugar causes problems.
Hypoglycemia causes hunger, sweating, shakiness, and weakness, and makes it hard to think clearly
If you have diabetes, you're more likely to get hypoglycemia—it can happen if you take too much medicine, don’t eat enough, or exercise too much
To treat hypoglycemia, eat or drink something with sugar (like juice or candy) to raise your blood sugar level
What causes hypoglycemia?
Most often, hypoglycemia is:
A complication of drugs used to treat diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more , particularly if you don't eat the right amounts at the right time
If you don't have diabetes, you're not likely to get hypoglycemia. However, sometimes you may get hypoglycemia if you:
Have a tumor in your pancreas
Have severe health problems, such as kidney failure Overview of Kidney Failure This chapter includes a new section on COVID-19 and acute kidney injury (AKI). Kidney failure is the inability of the kidneys to adequately filter metabolic waste products from the blood. Kidney... read more , heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more , cancer, or shock Shock Shock is a medical emergency caused by your organs not getting enough blood and oxygen. It has nothing to do with the "shock" we feel when something scares or upsets us. When your body can't... read more (a dangerously low drop in blood pressure)
Drink too much alcohol
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?
At first, you may have these symptoms:
Later, if you have severe hypoglycemia, you may have these symptoms:
Confusion and trouble concentrating
Sometimes, hypoglycemia makes it seem like you're drunk.
If not treated, severe hypoglycemia can cause seizures Seizure Disorders Seizures are changes in the brain's electrical signals. A seizure disorder is a problem that causes a person to have seizures. The brain is made up of nerve cells. Nerve cells talk to each other... read more , coma Stupor and Coma Stupor is unresponsiveness from which a person can be aroused only by vigorous, physical stimulation. Coma is unresponsiveness from which a person cannot be aroused and in which the person'... read more , and brain damage.
How can doctors tell if I have hypoglycemia?
Doctors diagnose hypoglycemia based on your blood sugar level while you're actually having symptoms.
How do doctors treat hypoglycemia?
Doctors will tell you to treat your symptoms at home. If you're having symptoms, eat or drink sugar, such as:
Glucose (sugar) tablets
Sugary drink, such as a glass of fruit juice
Doctors will treat the cause of your hypoglycemia:
If a medicine is causing hypoglycemia, doctors will change the amount you take
If you have a tumor in your pancreas, doctors will do surgery to take it out
If you have diabetes or are otherwise at risk for hypoglycemia, your doctor may suggest you:
Keep glucagon with you in case of an emergency (glucagon is a shot that raises your blood sugar level quickly)
Eat small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals
Limit the carbohydrates you eat
Carry or wear a medical ID to let other doctors know you have diabetes in case of a medical emergency