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What is hypoglycemia?
If your blood sugar drops too low, you can have a low blood sugar reaction called hypoglycemia. A low blood sugar reaction can come on fast. Generally, a level below about 60 mg/dl is called low blood sugar. It may occur once or twice a week if you have Type 1 diabetes. Hypoglycemia is much less common with Type 2 diabetes, but it can happen especially with some medications. People who have tight control of their diabetes are more at risk for low blood sugar and so are the elderly. Studies have shown that 50 percent of severe low blood sugars occur between midnight and 8 a.m. Talk to your diabetes educator about what to do.
What causes hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia can occur for a number of reasons:
- Delaying or skipping a meal
- Eating too little food at a meal
- Getting more exercise than usual
- Taking too much diabetes medicine, especially insulin, sulfonylureas, or meglitinides
- Drinking alcohol
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?
You feel shaky, nervous, tired, sweaty, cold, hungry, confused, irritable or impatient. It's always important to test to be sure that you actually are having low blood sugar.
Teach your family members and friends the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. You should also wear a bracelet and carry a card in your wallet that says you have diabetes. The card should also say if you're an insulin user.
What is the treatment for hypoglycemia?
- If you feel that your blood glucose is too low, test it. If it is 70 mg/dl or lower, you should eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrate quickly 1/2 cup of fruit juice, such as:
- 1-2 teaspoons of sugar or honey
- 1/2 cup of regular soda
- 5-6 pieces of hard candy
- Glucose gel or tablets (take the amount noted on the package to add up to 15 grams of carbohydrate)
- 1 cup of milk
- Test your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. If it is still below 70 mg/dl, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrate. If your blood glucose is not low but your next meal is an hour away, have a snack with starch and protein, such as:
- Crackers and peanut butter or cheese
- Half a ham or turkey sandwich
- Crackers or cereal with a cup of milk
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that milk is better than juice or glucose because it has lactose, fat and protein that will help keep your blood sugar remain steady over time. A candy bar or other high fat sweets can raise blood sugar too high after you eat them and can contribute to weight gain.
Adult family members should also know how to inject glucagon, a hormone that causes your liver to release glucose. Your doctor can prescribe a glucagon kit. Always keep it in the same place and make sure family and friends know where it is. It is extremely important that those around you know what to do in an emergency.