So we’ve all dealt with the symptoms, shaky, lethargic, confused, sweaty and the list goes on andon but what happens when we don’t realize or notice these symptoms? People who don’t have diabetes start to feel hypoglycemic when their blood glucose reaches 50- 55 mg/dl. In people who have diabetes, hypoglycemia can’t really be defined as a specific blood glucose level, because the point at which they feel “low” changes, depending on their usual BG level.
So, individuals who are not properly controlled can “feel low” at normal or high BG levels, and individuals whose blood glucose runs consistently in the low-normal range and have frequent hypoglycemia may not “feel low” until their BG falls to a dangerously low level. This has happened to me once and it was not fun. So lets take a look at what hypoglycemia unawareness is and what we can do prevent it!
Hypoglycemia Unawareness Causes:
Hypoglycemia unawareness is actually quite common. It happens to me and that’s why I am so grateful for my dexcom. Studies show that 17 percent of us with Type 1 diabetes suffer from some sort of hypoglycemia unawareness. Symptoms of a low blood sugar become less obvious after having diabetes for several years because repeated lows tend to impair the body’s release of stress hormones. As we are probably aware at this point, or maybe not if your newly diagnosed, the major counter-regulatory hormone that causes glucose to be released by the liver to raise the blood sugar is glucagon, but is reduced in most people who have Type 1 diabetes within the first two to ten years after diagnosis.
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of an unacknowledged low because the mind becomes less capable of recognizing what’s happening, the liver is blocked from creating glucose needed to raise the blood sugar, and free fatty acid (the backup to glucose for fuel) release is also blocked. These factors make symptoms milder and harder to recognize and personally after a couple trips to the ER due to severe low blood sugars…lets just say I’m not a fan of alcohol any longer.
Hypoglycemia, Low Sugar Symptoms And Prevention:
The best way to prevent low blood sugar is to monitor your blood sugar levels frequently and be prepared to treat it promptly at all times. You and a close friend or relative need to learn the symptoms and should always carry glucose tablets, hard candy, or other sources of fast-acting carbohydrate.
Glucose tablets are convenient and a great choice and easy to carry around with you. Personally I love treating with raw honey (as this can also be carried around with you in small containers) as well as maple syrup. In my experience, both are highly effective in treating a low and have some fantastic health benefits, not to mention taste great! Candy can be tempting to eat, even when blood sugar levels are normal, especially for children with diabetes, but I would not recommend.
A low blood sugar can be frightening and unpleasant, and it is common to be fearful of future episodes. This may lead you to keep your blood sugar level high, which can lead to long-term complications, so it may be helpful to discuss fears of low blood sugar with a healthcare provider. In addition, ask about blood sugar awareness education. Blood sugar awareness training can improve your ability to recognize low blood sugar earlier and most offices have diabetes educators on hand who will be more than willing to help out. Mine were absolutely fantastic!
Hypoglycemia And Glucagon:
If you don’t have or your doctor hasn’t provided you with a glucagon kit, its imperative for you talk to your doctor and have them put in a prescription at your local pharmacy. I have several kits lying around my home as well as all the vehicles that we have. Glucagon is a hormone made by the alpha cells in the pancreas and quickly raises the blood sugar by triggering a release of glucose from glycogen stores in the liver. Injected glucagon is the fastest way to raise a low blood sugar, but it requires that an injection be given by someone who has been trained to mix and inject it at the time of need. Recently though, companies have started to work on glucagon in a nasal inhalation form and it can be sprayed directly into your nose in a mist format. Personally this sounds like a much easier form of treatment compared to the conventional treatment so keep an eye out for that and also talk to your doctor.
When someone with diabetes resists treatment, becomes unconscious, or has seizures due to hypoglycemia, glucagon can be injected by another person to rapidly raise the blood sugar. It is also handy for self-injection when someone with diabetes is ill or nauseated and cannot eat to correct a low blood sugar. I had a friend that has done this numerous times and we were chatting the other day about it. I think its a fantastic way to raise your blood sugars when you are ill, something I never even though of. So if you haven’t done so already, or if you are newly diagnosed, please contact your doctor to make sure you have a couple of kits on hand as glucagon can be your greatest ally in fighting a severe low.
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