Hypoglycemia Signs, Symptoms and Treatment Options

hypoglycemiaPeople know hypoglycemia by the common name of low blood sugar. People also call it insulin shock or an insulin reaction. Currently, around 4% of the Australian population has this condition. Low blood sugar falls in the range of 70 or less mg/dl. People measure blood sugar in milligrams per deciliter. What a doctor classifies as low varies from person to person. It's important that you talk to them if you're having problems.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

The signs and symptoms of low blood sugar vary from person to person. It's important that you know what your signs and symptoms are. This can help you recognise that you're reacting faster. The common signs and symptoms are both mental and physical.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar:

  • Shaking -You might notice that you feel shaky, and your hands may start to shake first. This can spread to other areas of your body and it can get stronger as time goes on.
  • Sweating, Chills, Clamminess- If your blood sugar drops, you may start to feel sick. Sweating and chills are classic signs of low blood sugar.
  • Fast Heart Rate -Your body will release adrenaline to try and convert stored glucose into sugar. This adrenaline can make your heart beat faster.
  • Lip or Tongue Tingling or Numbness -Your lips or tongue can feel numb, and you might get a pins and needles feeling. This is similar to the feeling you get if your foot falls asleep.
  • Lack of Coordination -It's common for people to have trouble walking, or you may feel like you're going to fall or are unsteady.
  • Headaches - Skipping meals or if you don't have a set eating schedule can cause headaches. Migraines are common with people who have low blood sugar.
  • Dizziness -A lot of people get dizzy or lightheaded. This is one of the biggest physical symptoms of low blood sugar.
  • Hunger or Nausea -Your body will try to get you to eat something to make your blood sugar levels rise. In turn, you can feel hungry or nauseous.
  • Seizures -One of the severe symptoms is seizures. The blood sugar levels usually have to fall below 30 to cause seizures. The brain's neurons need glucose to function, and they don't have it if your blood sugar drops. This causes them to lower their function, and a seizure happens.

Mental Signs and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar:

  • Anxiety or Nervousness -If your blood sugar falls, you get anxious. This can get worse if you keep testing your blood sugar.
  • Irritability -Your brain floods your body with adrenaline, and this can cause you to feel irritable or angry. If it keeps happening, you can feel more irritable.
  • Confusion -You might feel confused, or it might make it hard to do routine tasks. You can forget what you're saying too.
  • Sleepiness -Problems sleeping or feeling tired all the time are another common symptom. Your body is constantly trying to fix your low blood sugar levels, and this can lead to feeling tired all of the time and trouble sleeping.
  • Sadness -It can make you feel sad or even depressed. Also, if you have depression, low blood sugar can make it worse.
  • Nightmares - Finding it hard to sleep is common, and vivid dreams and nightmares can stop you from falling asleep.

Hypoglycemia Treatment Options

hypoglycemiaThere are a few treatment options for low blood sugar. The first one is to eat something to bring your blood sugar levels up. If you start to feel any of the common signs or symptoms, the following can help:

  1. Check your blood glucose levels
  2. Eat 15 to 20 grams of simple carbohydrates or glucose
  3. Recheck your levels in 15 minutes
  4. If it's still low, eat 15 to 20 grams of simple carbohydrates or glucose
  5. Eat a small snack when you get your blood sugar levels in their normal range. This is only if your next meal is over an hour or two away.

Simple Carbohydrates Examples:

  • Two tablespoons of raisins
  • Four ounces of juice or regular soda (orange juice is popular)
  • One tablespoon of honey or sugar
  • Eight ounces of nonfat or 1% milk
  • Hard candy, gumdrops, or jellybeans
  • Glucose tablets
  • Gel tubes

Glucagon Injection Kits

If you do pass out, someone else has to help you. This is where glucagon injection kits come in. Glucagon is a hormone naturally found in your body. It tells your liver to add stored glucose into your blood when you have low blood sugar. People use them to treat low blood sugar if the person with the low blood sugar passes out. They can treat severe insulin reactions. However, you do need a prescription for these kits.

Your family, friends, and coworkers should know how to use this kit. They should call emergency services if they don't know how to use it and you pass out. To use this kit:

  1. Inject the glucagon into the muscle (buttock, thigh or arm).
  2. Wait for the person to regain consciousness (5 to 15 minutes). The person might feel nauseous or throw up.
  3. Call emergency services if necessary.

Do Not:

  • Give food or fluid because they can choke
  • Put your fingers in their mouths
  • Inject insulin because this will lower the blood sugar levels

Hypoglycemia Unawareness

Many people don't realise it when their blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dl. They might not have any symptoms until they're severe, and this is called hypoglycemia unawareness. People who commonly have low blood sugar episodes, have had diabetes for years, or who tightly control their diabetes are at a higher risk for this condition. Your doctor might raise your blood sugar target levels to help prevent this.

Medical IDs and Mediband

Many people who have low blood sugar wear a medical ID bracelet. This can help in the event of an emergency or low blood sugar episode. A medical ID is usually a bracelet or a necklace. It will have key health and treatment information. Some even have the full medical history in a compact USB drive.

Mediband is another popular tool. You can order custom medical alert bracelets and necklaces, and they come in silicone or stainless steel. They offer wallet cards as well. This lets you wear the bracelet or necklace and direct people to check your wallet card. If you have an episode in public, it gives anyone on the scene valuable information about your hypoglycemia and treatment.

Hypoglycemia is a serious medical condition, but you can control it through careful monitoring and a healthy lifestyle. Wearing a medical ID like Mediband is important in case you pass out and can't tell anyone around you what's wrong. Talk to your doctor if you're having problems. They can diagnose this condition and help you control it.  Is it time for a diabetes check-up?

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