Diabetes: Dealing With Low Blood Sugar From Medicines
What is an Actionset?
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in the blood drops below what the body needs to function normally. Some pills for diabetes can cause low blood sugar. If you want to know how to deal with low blood sugar caused by insulin, see:
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Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) means that the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood has dropped below what your body needs to function normally. When your blood sugar level drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), you most likely will have symptoms, such as feeling tired, weak, or shaky. Symptoms of low blood sugar usually develop quickly.
What causes low blood sugar?
Low blood sugar levels can be caused by having too much insulin in your body and/or not enough sugar in your blood. This can happen with some oral medicines used to treat diabetes and also with insulin shots. This is more likely to happen if you eat less food than usual, exercise, or do intense physical work. Very low blood sugar levels most often develop rapidly (in 10 to 15 minutes) when a person has skipped a meal and is doing intense physical work. Reduced kidney function can prolong the action of diabetes medicine, possibly making low blood sugar levels more frequent.
Usually, blood sugar levels in people who take diabetes medicine drop only low enough to cause mild symptoms. Very low blood sugar levels usually do not occur in people with diabetes who do not take insulin shots. Some pills used to treat type 2 diabetes are more likely to cause low blood sugar than others.
Low blood sugar levels can occur if you:
Test Your Knowledge
Low blood sugar means that the level of sugar in the blood has dropped below what the body needs to function normally, usually below 70 mg/dL.
Very low blood sugar levels (below 20 mg/dL) are emergency situations and require immediate care.
Even mild low blood sugar can affect the way you think and respond to things around you. And mild low blood sugar can quickly drop to a more dangerous level.
If your blood sugar drops below 40 mg/dL, your brain may receive too little sugar to work properly and your judgment and muscle coordination will be affected. These are symptoms of moderate low blood sugar. You may not realize that your blood sugar is too low, and you may not be aware that you need to eat food to raise the level. Someone else may have to help you eat or drink something to raise your blood sugar level. If you do not get help, your brain may not work properly. This can cause an accident if you are driving a car or operating other machinery.
If your blood sugar level drops below 20 mg/dL, which is considered severe low blood sugar, you can lose consciousness. If you do not receive prompt emergency care, you may go into a coma, have a seizure, heart attack, or stroke, and possibly die.
Test Your Knowledge
If my blood sugar level drops very low (below 20 mg/dL):
I can fall into a coma and possibly die.
I will act like I am okay.
I will be able to eat or drink something to raise it.
I can still function if I need to.
Here are some ways you can manage low blood sugar.
Treat low blood sugar early
Treat low blood sugar levels as soon as you (or someone else) notice the symptoms:
Test Your Knowledge
To be prepared for low blood sugar, I need to carry:
My pills for diabetes.
Some quick-sugar foods.
To treat low blood sugar before it becomes an emergency, I need to:
Take an extra pill for diabetes.
Go to sleep and rest.
Eat some food that contains sugar.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start dealing with low blood sugar levels effectively.
If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins where you have questions.
If you would like more information on dealing with low blood sugar levels, the following resources are available:
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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