For diabetics and non-diabetics the basic translation of hypoglycemia is low blood glucose levels.
WebMD lists blood glucose levels as follows:
Fasting blood glucose levels are measured in mg/dl. A fasting blood sugar level of:
- 70 to 99 mg/dL is normal.
- 50 to 69 mg/dL is mildly low.
- Less than 50 mg/dL is very low.
While hypoglycemia is rare in non diabetics, it does occur. Often the causes can be secondary medical conditions such as stomach surgery causing rapid gastric emptying, inherited genetic conditions, side effects of medication, stress, large consumption of alcohol, poor diet, skipping meals or very irregular meals or excessive exercise.
Any of these things can cause blood glucose levels to drop abnormally.
For the diabetic, hypoglycemia can be caused by:
- medication such as insulin and too little food consumption and or increased activity
- medications that stimulate insulin production combined with increased exercise and/or decreased food consumption
- sometimes it just happens
Remember our discussion on stress in the Battling Diabetes archives:
Stress releases hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that will increase your blood glucose levels. While this is good on a temporary basis to provide energy to deal with a threatening fight or flight situation, chronic stress keeps your glucose levels elevated which can create insulin resistance and high glucose levels.
There are however those rare individuals out there whose response to stress is a severe DROP in blood sugar.
Are you a junk food junkie? You may be suffering from reactive hypoglycemia. Does this scenario sound familiar? You consume two Twinkies, a Mountain Dew for breakfast, and then toss in a package of mini donuts and a sugar laced coffee from the machine at work and wonder why an hour or two later you are feeling shaky and jittery. Your pancreas over reacted to the blood sugar rush you gave it and now your blood glucose level has dropped abnormally.
For more on reactive hypoglycemia see the Mayo Clinic site.
Signs of hypoglycemia:
- blurred vision
Untreated hypoglycemia CAN lead to unconsciousness.
Acute hypoglycemia is treated by consuming a carbohydrate-rich food such as a glucose tablet or juice. or by an injection of glucagon if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow.
If you are diabetic you are of course monitoring your blood glucose levels to report to your diabetes health team.
If you are not diabetic and think you are having hypoglycemic episodes see your doctor. He will give you a thorough exam which will probably include fasting blood glucose testing and check for other possible causes.
Common sense approaches to preventing hypglycemia include: