As diabetics chances are we’ve all experienced those dreaded lows, but what are they? What can we do as type 1 diabetics to avoid them and more importantly, what can we do to prevent them? Lets take a closer look and examine hypoglycemia!
The body’s most important fuel is glucose, a type of sugar. When you digest most foods, sugar is released, and that sugar ends up in your bloodstream as glucose.
Your body, particularly your brain and nervous system, needs a certain level of glucose to function — not too much, and not too little. If your blood glucose level isn’t right, your body will react by showing certain symptoms.
Hypoglycemia occurs when a person’s blood sugar levels are abnormally low, and it’s a potentially serious condition. If you know someone who has diabetes, you may have heard them talk about “insulin shock,” which is the common name for a severe hypoglycemic reaction.
People with diabetes may experience hypoglycemia if they don’t eat enough or if they take too much insulin — the medicine most commonly used to treat diabetes with those who suffer from type 1.
Causes Of Hypoglycemia:
Most cases of hypoglycemia in adults happen in people with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes has two forms, type 1 (loss of all insulin production) and type 2 (inadequate insulin production due to resistance to the actions of insulin).
People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin to control their glucose level; if they skip meals or have a decreased appetite without changing their insulin dose, BAM, you guessed it, bring on the low!
Insulin is also used to treat some people with type 2 diabetes. If a person with type 1 diabetes accidentally takes too much insulin, or a person with type 2 diabetes accidentally takes too much of their oral medications or insulin, he or she may develop hypoglycemia.
Even when a diabetic patient takes medications correctly, improper meals, odd mealtimes, or excessive exercise may result in hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of a low blood sugar will vary depending on the individual, but here is a list of most of the common ones that I’ve personally experienced. It should be noted that low blood sugars can occur suddenly and the most common low sugar symptoms include:
- blurry vision
- rapid heartbeat
- sudden mood changes
- sudden nervousness
- unexplained fatigue
- pale skin
- difficulty sleeping
- skin tingling
- trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
- loss of consciousness
If you have hypoglycemic unawareness, a condition in which you do not know your blood sugar level is dropping, your blood sugar can drop so quickly you may not even have warning symptoms. When this occurs, you can faint, experience a seizure, or even go into a coma. I had the unfortunate experience of a seizure a couple of years ago, definitely not something that I want to deal with again.
So what about hypoglycemia symptoms in non diabetics? Can you really experience low blood sugars even though you do not have diabetes? Well, the answer is yes. Even though you may not have diabetes, you can still develop a condition called non-diabetic hypoglycemia.
Non-diabetic hypoglycemia is a condition (just like hypoglycemia) that causes a persons blood sugar drop to low and dangerous levels.
There are 2 types of non-diabetic hypoglycemia:
- Fasting hypoglycemia – typically happens after a person goes without food for 8 hours or longer
- Reactive hypoglycemia – Usually happens about 2 to 4 hours after a meal.
What Causes Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia?
There are several contributing factors that play a role in fasting hypoglycemia, the most common are:
- Certain medicines or herbal supplements, most notably fenugreek and ginseng
- Medical conditions such as liver disease, hypothyroidism, and tumors
- Eating disorders or malnutrition
- Stomach surgery or hemodialysis
As for reactive hypoglycemia, the causes seem to be more unknown but research suggests the following:
- Meals high in refined carbohydrates such as white bread or foods high in sugar
- Any surgery of the digestive system
As for treatment of non-diabetic hypoglycemia? That is handled the same, and you can read about that below, so make it appoint to check in with your doctor and come up with a game plan in the event you have an emergency.
Hopefully all of us reading this have been conscious enough to treat our lows, but If a conscious person is having symptoms of hypoglycemia, the symptoms usually go away if the person eats or drinks something sweet (raw honey, glucose tablets, candy, juice, non-diet soda).
I personally use raw honey (as it does not need to be refrigerated) and raw maple syrup when I am at home. Both are fast, work great and come with some additional health benefits, particularly the honey.
If a person become unconscious, they can be treated with an immediate injection of glucagon or with intravenous glucose infusions in a hospital.
People with diabetes who have hypoglycemic episodes may need to adjust their insulin dose or change their diet or exercise habits. Even if you recognize that your symptoms are caused by hypoglycemia, you should treat yourself or seek treatment, and not try to just “tough it out.”
Those with long-standing diabetes may stop experiencing the usual early warning symptoms of hypoglycemia. This is called hypoglycemic unawareness, and it can be very serious because the person may not know to seek treatment.
If you and your doctor identify that you are unaware when you have low blood sugars, your dose of insulin probably will need to be reduced. You will probably need to check your blood sugar more often and you may need your insulin dose adjusted to maintain more reasonable blood sugars with less risk of hypoglycemia.
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