- When the blood glucose gets lower than normal, it results in a condition called hypoglycemia.
- The possible causes can be diabetes or non-diabetes related.
- It may be fatal if left untreated.
Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by having a lower than normal blood glucose level. A fasting blood sugar level of 70 mg/dL or lower is considered hypoglycemia. But this level can vary among people in different conditions.
There are different possible causes, which can be related to diabetes or not.
1. Non-Diabetes Related
- Excessive Alcohol Intake
Too much alcohol in the body can prevent your liver from releasing stored glucose into the bloodstream, resulting in hypoglycemia.
- Certain Drugs
Mistakenly taking medications for diabetes can cause your blood glucose level to get lower. Quinine, which is a drug to treat malaria, can also cause hypoglycemia.
- Some Critical Illnesses
Diseases that affect the liver, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, can cause hypoglycemia. Also, kidney diseases make it hard for the body to excrete drugs, resulting in a build-up of medications and depletion of glucose levels. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa results in long term starvation and prevents the body from creating glucose.
- Hormonal Problems
A deficiency in the insulin-regulating hormone caused by the adrenal gland and pituitary tumor disorders can result in lesser glucose production. It can also develop among children who have insufficient growth hormones.
- Overproduction of Insulin
Insulinoma, a tumor of the pancreas, results in too much insulin production, leading to hypoglycemia. When the pancreas cells become enlarged, it can also cause an overproduction of insulin.
- High sugar-containing Meals
After consuming meals high in sugar, the body produces insulin greater than what the body needs. This condition can result in hypoglycemia.
People who have undergone stomach bypass surgery can develop reactive hypoglycemia or postprandial hypoglycemia.
People with type 1 diabetes have a hard time making enough insulin, while people with type 2 diabetes are less responsive to insulin. Those with diabetes usually have a build-up of glucose in their bloodstreams, and they take insulin or other drugs to bring their glucose to normal levels. Some diabetes medications can cause glucose levels to drop too low and results in hypoglycemia.
Early signs of hypoglycemia include an irregular heartbeat, hunger, shakiness, sweating, irritability, fatigue, pale skin, anxiety, and numbness in the cheek, lips, and tongue.
As hypoglycemia worsens, the symptoms can intensify and include confusion, blurry vision, seizures, and even loss of consciousness.
If left untreated, hypoglycemia can cause seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death. It can also be the cause of several injuries and vehicular accidents. Repeated episodes that are left unmanaged can also lead to hypoglycemia unawareness. It is a condition when the body and brain no longer send signals that blood sugar level is already low and can result in severe, life-threatening hypoglycemia.
So before it leads to significant problems, it is essential to know how to prevent it.
For people with diabetes, you should follow your diabetes management plan. Any plan to change your medication and schedule of intake, diet, exercise should be approved by your physician. Continuously monitoring your glucose level is also recommended. As a first-aid solution, you can always bring with you a fast-acting carbohydrate such as juice or glucose tablets, which you can immediately take in cases when your blood sugar level drops low.
If you do not have diabetes, eating small frequent meals throughout the day can minimize these episodes.
Source: Mayo Clinic