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Hypoglycemia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Hypoglycemia - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Hunger, nausea, sweating, and trembling can be the signs of hypoglycemia. Read its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Raveendran S R

Published At March 3, 2020
Reviewed AtMay 10, 2024

Introduction

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 cause a 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, all parts of the body need 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 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. In a hypoglycemic state, physicians may prescribe glucose tablets.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypoglycemia?

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

  • Heart rhythm irregularity.

  • Tiredness.

  • Skin becomes pale.

  • Shaking, anxiety, and sweating.

  • Hunger, irritation.

  • Presence of tingling sensation near or around the mouth.

Severe Stages Have the Following Signs and Symptoms:

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

  • Disturbances in the vision, like blurred vision..

  • Seizures.

  • Consciousness loss.

Hypoglycemic patients may appear to be intoxicated with slurring of speech and clumsy movement.

How Is It Caused?

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

  • Associated With Diabetes: 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 alcohol consumption.

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

  3. Overproduction of Insulin is 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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, which is more common in people who have undergone stomach surgery.

When Should a Hypoglycemic Person Consult a Doctor?

  • The person should reach out to a healthcare provider if they have symptoms of hypoglycemia without diabetes. In such a case the doctors may give glucose tablets as a conservative treatment.

  • Diabetic individuals with the symptoms of hypoglycemia should reach out to healthcare professionals if they cannot subside the symptoms by eating a regular diet, drinking juice, or having candies and glucose tablets.

  • One should consult a doctor when they feel that their condition is getting worse with hypoglycemia.

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 be associated.

How Can It Be Prevented in Individuals With Diabetes?

  • Hypoglycemia in diabetes patients can be prevented by CGM findings, which means continuous glucose monitoring. CGM findings provide real-time information into the blood glucose level of the individuals, which helps them make informed decisions about their insulin dosage and dietary choices. Thus, CGM findings are essential.

  • In addition to this, carrying glucose tablets is essential in correcting the low blood sugar level very quickly and precisely.

  • Thus, CGM findings show that adjusting insulin doses and taking glucose tablets are appropriate ways to prevent hypoglycemia in individuals with diabetes.

In normal persons hypoglycemia can be prevented by having regular meals, healthy snacks, limited sugary foods, staying hydrated, exercising moderately, taking limited alcohol, and routinely monitoring blood sugar levels.

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 and personal histories, signs and symptoms, and medications being taken, 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 carbohydrates orally or IV, depending on the patient's state of consciousness. 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, and consulting him will give us all the details we need.

Conclusion

Hypoglycemia is a very common condition but also can be life-threatening if not managed on time. Consulting a physician as soon as the person notices 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. CGM findings at home are also essential.

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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