Diabetes: Dealing With Low Blood Sugar From Insulin
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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 mg/dL, you most likely will have symptoms, such as feeling tired, weak, or shaky. Symptoms of low blood sugar can develop quickly.
Sometimes people with diabetes have low blood sugar levels during the night. If your blood sugar level drops during the night, you may wake up in a cold sweat and feel weak or you may sleep through it. Your body may use stored sugar to raise your blood sugar level back toward your target range. If this happens, you most likely will wake up in the morning with a headache and possibly high blood sugar.
What causes low blood sugar?
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can develop rapidly (within 10 to 15 minutes). It can occur if you:
You may have symptoms of low blood sugar if your blood sugar drops from a high level to a lower level. For example, if your blood sugar level has been higher than 300 mg/dL for a week or so and the level drops suddenly to 100 mg/dL, you may have symptoms of low blood sugar. But if you have had diabetes for many years, you may not have symptoms of low blood sugar until your blood sugar level is very low.
Test Your Knowledge
Determine whether the following statements are true.
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).
A very low blood sugar level (below 20 mg/dL) is an emergency that requires immediate care.
If untreated, very low blood sugar can lead to serious illness and death.
When your blood sugar level falls below 70 mg/dL (55 mg/dL if you are pregnant), your body reacts like it does when you feel very afraid, angry, or anxious. You may feel weak, shaky, and/or sweaty. But if you eat something that contains sugar, your blood sugar level most likely will rise. An emergency likely will not develop, and you will not have any long-lasting effects from having low blood sugar.
If your blood sugar continues to drop (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 your blood sugar is too low, and you may not be aware that you need to eat food with sugar 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, you could get in an accident if you are driving a car or operating other machinery. If you are pregnant, low blood sugar can harm your baby.
If your blood sugar continues to drop (below 20 mg/dL), you can lose consciousness. If you do not receive prompt emergency care, you may have a seizure, heart attack, or stroke and possibly die. These are symptoms of severe low blood sugar. If you are pregnant and taking insulin, very low blood sugar levels are dangerous for your baby.
A low blood sugar level may soon recur, even though it has been treated. Check your blood sugar often after a low level has been treated to make sure your blood sugar returns to normal.
Test Your Knowledge
Complete the following statement.
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.
Here are some ways you can manage low blood sugar.
Always be prepared for the possibility of having a low blood sugar level.
Treat low blood sugar early
Treat low blood sugar levels as soon as you (or someone else) notice the symptoms.
Test Your Knowledge
Complete the following statements.
To be prepared for a low blood sugar emergency, I need to carry:
Some quick-sugar foods.
To treat low blood sugar before it becomes an emergency, I need to:
Take an extra dose of insulin.
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.
Talk with your doctor or certified diabetes educator
If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor or diabetes educator. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins of the pages where you have questions.
If you don't already have glucagon at home, ask your doctor for a prescription. Make sure someone knows how to give you a glucagon shot if an emergency develops. You may want to have two glucagon kits so that if one gets used, you have a backup.
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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