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Hypoglycemia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Hypoglycemia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Do you often have episodes of hunger, nausea, sweating, and trembling? These can be signs of hypoglycemia. Read its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Raveendran S R

Published At March 3, 2020
Reviewed AtFebruary 6, 2023

Blood sugar levels are one of the important criteria for the better functioning of the body. It can sometimes rise or fall in people and causes pathologic state. A decreased level of blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. Unlike hyperglycemia, it needs immediate management and it can be caused due to various causes which will be discussed in the article.

It has to be kept in mind that it is not a disease or disorder but can indicate some underlying health issues. As we all know that all parts of the body need the energy to perform their functions properly and this energy is supplied in the form of glucose. Hence, an adequate level of blood glucose is necessary to maintain the proper functioning of the body including the brain.

Normal blood sugar levels for fasting ranges between 70-100 mg/dl, postprandial 110-140 mg/dl, HbA1c should be 5.6-6.5. HbA1c is the average value of sugar in the past three months and gives an accurate estimation of the sugar levels. Immediate management is required when the blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dl.

What are the symptoms?

When the blood sugar level falls down, the following symptoms can be observed:

1. Heart rhythm irregularity.

2. Tiredness.

3. Skin becomes pale.

4. Shaking, anxiety, and sweating.

5. Hunger, irritation.

6. Presence of tingling sensation near or around the mouth.

Severe stages have the following signs and symptoms:

1. Inability to finish the daily tasks including confusion, abnormal behavior.

2. Disturbances in the vision like blurred vision.

3. Seizures.

4. Consciousness loss.

Patients who are hypoglycemic may appear to be intoxicated with slurring of speech and clumsy movement.

How is it caused?

Many factors are associated with hypoglycemia, most common being the side-effects of drugs used to cure diabetes. Let’s have a look at the causes.

Associated with diabetes:

a) People with hyperglycemia may take medications to lower blood sugar levels, but the intake of too much medication like Insulin may lower the blood sugar level below the normally required levels.

Not associated with diabetes:

1. Too much of alcohol consumption.

2. Severe or chronic conditions like hepatitis, kidney disorders, etc.

3. Overproduction of Insulin seen in patients with tumors of the pancreas which is rare (Insulinoma).

4. Deficiency of certain hormones like diseases affecting adrenal glands, pituitary glands, etc.

Children may have pediatric ketotic hypoglycemia wherein along with low blood sugar, they also have high levels of ketones in the body, which can be attributed to metabolic disorders or certain conditions that may lead to the production of certain hormones in excess amounts.

Even insulin autoimmune syndrome may cause it in which the body’s immune system attacks the insulin in the body thinking it is a foreign object.

Can Hypoglycemia occur after meals?

Commonly, hypoglycemia is seen after fasting but sometimes, it can also happen after meals where insulin production is more than required. This is called reactive or postprandial hypoglycemia is more common in people who have undergone stomach surgery.

Are there any complications associated with hypoglycemia?

The most common complication, if not managed on time is unconsciousness as the brain becomes devoid of glucose required for its functioning.

Some other complications may include the following:

Seizure, loss of consciousness and ultimately death. Also, falling, injury and accidents while driving can also be associated.

How can it be prevented?

Patients with diabetes should keep a regular check on their blood glucose levels and also, should go on a regular check-up and alter the dosage of the medicine is required with doctor’s consent.

People who do not have diabetes should take adequate diet at regular intervals and improve life-style.

What are the ways to diagnose it?

A regular blood sugar level should be examined using a blood sugar test with the help of a glucometer. Also, checking HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) will give an accurate level of the blood sugar level and its maintenance.

On visiting a doctor, initially, questions will be associated with medical, personal histories, signs and symptoms, and medications you are taking followed by required laboratory investigations as mentioned above.

How can it be treated?

The treatment can be divided into two categories: Immediate management and treating the underlying cause.

Immediate treatment depends on the symptoms of the person. Early management involves the administration of glucose or carbohydrate orally or IV depending on the consciousness state of the patient. The second line management involves the treatment of underlying conditions which

can be done using medications, and in cases of tumor, surgery can be done. The specialist for this condition is a diabetologist and consulting him will give you all the details you need.

Hypoglycemia is a very common condition but also can be life-threatening if not managed on time. Consulting a physician as soon as you notice early or initial symptoms can prove beneficial and with the help of online medical platforms, it has become very easy nowadays to consult a physician at the ease of home.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Causes Hypoglycemia?

Many factors are associated with hypoglycemia, the most common being the side effects of drugs used to cure diabetes. 
- Too much alcohol consumption.
- Severe or chronic conditions like hepatitis, kidney disorders, etc.
- Overproduction of Insulin is seen in patients with tumors of the pancreas, which is rare (Insulinoma).
- Deficiency of certain hormones like diseases affecting adrenal glands, pituitary glands, etc.

2.

Can Hypoglycemia Occur After Meals?

Commonly, hypoglycemia is seen after fasting, but sometimes, it can also happen after meals when insulin production is more than required. This is called reactive or postprandial hypoglycemia and is more common in people who have undergone stomach surgery.

3.

Who Is at Risk for Hypoglycemia?

The people at risk for hypoglycemia are people with a high intake of alcohol and severe or chronic conditions like hepatitis, kidney disorders, etc. Even insulin autoimmune syndrome may cause it in which the body’s immune system attacks the insulin in the body, thinking it is a foreign object.

4.

What Blood Sugar Level Causes Hypoglycemia?

Normal blood sugar levels for fasting range between 70-100 mg/dl, postprandial 110-140 mg/dl, and HbA1c should be 5.6-6.5. HbA1c is the average value of sugar in the past three months and gives an accurate estimation of the sugar levels. Immediate management is required when the blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dl.

5.

How Can It Be Prevented?

Patients with diabetes should regularly check their blood glucose levels, go on regular check-ups, and alter the medicine dosage required with the doctor’s consent. People who do not have diabetes should take an adequate diet regularly and improve their lifestyle.

6.

How Is Hypoglycemia Treated?

Immediate treatment depends on the symptoms of the person. Early management involves the administration of glucose or carbohydrate orally or by IV, depending on the consciousness state of the patient. The second line of management involves the treatment of underlying conditions, which can be done using medications, and in cases of tumors, surgery can be done. The specialist for this condition is a diabetologist; consulting him will give you all the details you need.

7.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypoglycemia?

The following symptoms can be observed when the blood sugar level falls:
- Heart rhythm irregularity.
- Tiredness.
- Skin becomes pale.
- Shaking, anxiety, and sweating.
- Hunger, irritation.
- Presence of tingling sensation near or around the mouth.

8.

What Are the Ways to Diagnose It?

A blood sugar level should be examined using a blood sugar test with the help of a glucometer. Also, checking HbA1c (glycated hemoglobin) will give an accurate blood sugar level and maintenance. On visiting a doctor, initially, questions will be associated with medical and personal histories, signs and symptoms, and medications you are taking, followed by required laboratory investigations.

9.

Is Hypoglycemia a Disease?

Hypoglycemia is very common and can be life-threatening if not managed on time. Consulting a physician as soon as you notice early or initial symptoms can prove beneficial. With the help of online medical platforms, it has become very easy to consult a physician at home.

10.

Are There Any Complications Associated With Hypoglycemia?

The most common complication, if not managed on time, is unconsciousness, as the brain becomes devoid of glucose required for functioning. Seizure, loss of consciousness, and ultimately death. Also, falling, injury and accidents while driving can also be associated.
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Dr. Raveendran S R
Dr. Raveendran S R

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