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- What is Hypoglycemia?
- Diagnosing Hypoglycemia
- What Causes Hypoglycemia?
- Help for Hypoglycemia
- More Information on Hypoglycemia
What is Hypoglycemia?
Our bodies require glucose as a main energy source. Pumping through the bloodstream, glucose supplies the body’s trillion cells with energy. Just as a car starts to putter out as gas runs out, the body reacts with a number of unpleasant symptoms when glucose levels become low.
Hypoglycemia is the medical term used to describe low blood sugar levels and the symptoms that follow. Rather than an actual disease itself, Hypoglycemia is a syndrome which is indicative of another health problem, and while it is most commonly associated with diabetes, there are a number of other conditions that can result in low blood sugar levels.
Hypoglycemia needs to be tested while symptoms are present. While some people experience hypoglycemia symptoms during their initial doctor’s consultation, many people have to make an appointment at a later date after a period of fasting (a few hours or more depending on the severity of your symptoms).
Your physician can then do a blood test to determine if you have abnormally low blood sugar. If this is found to be true, your doctor may also recommend further tests to determine what underlying condition could be responsible for the hypoglycemia symptoms. Your doctor will also check that your symptoms disappear when your glucose levels are increased.
What are the Symptoms of Hypoglycemia?
When blood sugar levels drop, the body releases extra adrenaline into the bloodstream to help increase glucose levels. This is the body’s initial attempt to protect against the severe effects of hypoglycemia, and the result is the initial milder hypoglycemic symptoms. When the brain becomes starved of energy supplying glucose, more severe brain symptoms can arise which, if left untreated, can be serious. Hypoglycemia symptoms generally resolve once glucose levels have been restored to normal.
- pale complexion
- extreme hunger
- heart palpitations
- blurred or double vision
- fatigue and weakness
- seizures and loss of consciousness (coma) in rare serious cases
What Causes Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is most commonly caused by diabetes, although other conditions may also result in decreased blood sugar levels.
Conditions that Can Cause Hypoglycemia
- Side effects of certain medications
- Excessive alcohol
- Certain cancers
- Serious illnesses such as kidney failure, liver disease or heart problems
- Hereditary fructose intolerance
- Hormonal deficiencies
- Early stages of pregnancy
- Prolonged fasting
- Long periods of strenuous exercise
Help for Hypoglycemia
Treatment of hypoglycemia usually involves taking necessary short-term steps to increase your blood glucose level back into the normal range, and taking the necessary steps to identify the appropriate treatment.
The short-term treatment of hypoglycemia generally includes the intake of sugar or glucose tablets. If symptoms have progressed to a more serious level you may need intravenous glucose or an injection of glucagon.
More Information on Hypoglycemia
Tips for Coping with Hypoglycemia
- Keep meal times regular and don’t skip meals, especially if you are on any glucose lowering medication.
- Keep fit and keep up with the regular exercise, but make sure to snack on something before hand.
- Make provisions for "just in case situations" or the times you know you may not be able to eat at your usual time by taking a snack or meal along with you.
- Avoid intake of simple sugars where you can. These cause a sharp and sudden increase in your blood sugar levels, followed by an equally sharp and sudden decrease which can result in hypoglycemia. Rather focus on adequate regular intake of complex carbohydrates which will provide a more steady supply of energy.
- Get advice from a dietician or your health care practitioner about any diet modifications you need to make to keep your sugar levels steady.
- Keep a record of when you get hypoglycemia and the events that precede it - then adapt your lifestyle accordingly and take the necessary steps to rectify it.
- Be prepared and always treat at the first sign of low blood sugar as soon as it arises so that you can avoid serious situations.