The body needs glucose for energy. When your blood glucose levels fall too low, you may feel shaky, dizzy, or weak. You may have trouble thinking clearly. If your blood sugar drops very low, you could even lose consciousness.
According to a 2020 report from the CDC, over 26.9 million people of all ages are currently diagnosed with diabetes. Patients suffering with diabetes are intimately aware that blood glucose levels can sometimes drop too low: a condition called hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose.
Hypoglycemia can happen to anyone, but it’s especially common in people who take insulin or other diabetes medications that cause low blood sugar.
This condition requires immediate treatment. In addition to causing alarming physical symptoms, hypoglycemia also significantly affects lab values. According to Mayo Clinic, a fasting blood sugar of 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.9 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) and below generally indicates hypoglycemia.
Either indicator — physical or quantifiable — should serve as an alert to seek treatment from your healthcare provider.
What kinds of hypoglycemia exist, why does it occur, and how can patients with chronic conditions act quickly to address potential instances of hypoglycemia? In this post, we’ll run through everything you need to know about hypoglycemia and how to stay abreast of potential issues.
What Are the Notable Types of Hypoglycemia?
There are two main types of hypoglycemia: reactive and fasting. Reactive hypoglycemia, also called postprandial hypoglycemia, is related to eating. Typically, this kind of hypoglycemia occurs approximately 4 hours after consuming food or drink.
Fasting hypoglycemia, on the other hand, occurs when you haven’t eaten for a while. Typically, fasting hypoglycemia becomes a possibility when someone hasn’t eaten in 8 hours or more.
Both types of hypoglycemia deprive muscles and brain cells of the energy they need to work properly, and both require immediate treatment.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar?
Symptoms of low blood sugar vary from person to person. They range from mild to severe and can develop quickly or slowly. Symptoms of hypoglycemia may include feeling suddenly hungry, shaking, sweating, experiencing heart palpitations, and experiencing sudden bouts of dizziness. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to serious health problems, including seizure and coma.
While hypoglycemia may cause symptoms for some, others may not experience any symptoms at all. This is particularly distressing, because it can be harder to identify and treat hypoglycemia if there are no physical signs that it’s occurring.
Individuals who don’t exhibit symptoms have a greater risk of experiencing severe lows in blood sugar. This increases the likelihood of serious health problems, as the appropriate providers may not be alerted in time to prevent significant issues.
People who have had diabetes for more than 5 to 10 years, experience hypoglycemia frequently, or take certain medications, such as beta blockers, are at a higher risk of exhibiting no symptoms when hypoglycemia arises.
What Are the Causes of Low Blood Sugar?
There are many possible causes of hypoglycemia. In people with diabetes, it’s often caused by not eating enough food, skipping a meal, exercising more than usual, or taking too much insulin or other diabetes medications. Other causes of hypoglycemia include certain medications, hormones, and kidney or liver problems.
How Should You Treat Low Blood Sugar?
When it comes to treating low blood sugar, there are a few key things to keep in mind. The following are some tips to help with caring for someone with low blood sugar:
- Arrange a Balanced Meal. First and foremost, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet. This means eating foods that are high in fiber and protein, but low in sugar. Carbohydrates can help to regulate blood sugar levels, so it’s important to include them in your diet, as long as these carbohydrates are not processed.
- Make Room for Exercise. Exercise is a fantastic way to help control blood sugar levels. Not only does it help to use up the excess glucose in the blood, but it also helps to improve insulin sensitivity. That means that your body will be better able to use insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
- Keep Tabs on Blood Sugar Levels. Most importantly, it’s imperative to regularly monitor your blood sugar levels. It’s especially necessary for those who have had diabetes for over 5 years, experience hypoglycemia regularly, or take beta blockers to monitor their glucose levels. Patients who don’t experience significant symptoms of low blood sugar must keep tabs on their glucose levels to avoid serious health problems. Monitoring your blood sugar levels puts you in a better position to quickly identify a drop in blood sugar before it becomes too severe. To ensure your healthcare provider can monitor and address any drop in blood sugar, consider engaging remote patient monitoring devices. These devices can help you keep your condition in check to avoid any serious health complications in the long run.
It’s important to monitor your blood glucose levels and be aware of the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia. If you spot or experience any of these symptoms, it’s imperative to treat them immediately.
Remote patient monitoring devices can help those suffering from hypoglycemia quickly address drops in blood sugar with help from their providers. Staying connected with healthcare providers ensures individuals with hypoglycemia can receive life-saving clinical intervention when necessary.
Hypoglycemia is one of many chronic conditions that remote patient monitoring technology can assist in treating. Remote patient monitoring is a crucial component of long-term care plans that reduce hospital readmissions, cut costs, and improve patient health outcomes.
Looking for a care management solution that proactively monitors for signs of hypoglycemia to improve patient health outcomes? Medistics empowers clinical care teams to deliver personalized, preventative care to patients with a variety of chronic conditions, including hypoglycemia.
The Medistics Care Management Platform is designed to simplify the patient experience at every step of the care journey to reduce hospital readmissions, cut costs, and boost patient engagement.
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