You may have briefly felt the effects of low blood sugar when you've gotten really hungry or exercised hard without eating enough. This happens to nearly everyone from time to time. It's easy to correct and usually nothing to worry about.
But low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can also be an ongoing problem. It occurs when the level of sugar in your blood drops too low to give your body energy.
What causes hypoglycemia in people who don't have diabetes?
Ongoing problems with low blood sugar can be caused by:
Diseases of the liver, kidneys, or pancreas.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can be
different depending on how low your blood sugar level drops.
Mild hypoglycemia can
make you feel hungry or like you want to vomit. You could also feel jittery or
nervous. Your heart may beat fast. You may sweat. Or your skin might turn cold
Moderate hypoglycemia often
makes people feel short-tempered, nervous, afraid, or confused. Your vision may
blur. You could also feel unsteady or have trouble walking.
Severe hypoglycemia can cause you to pass out. You could have
seizures. It could even cause a coma or death.
If you've had hypoglycemia during the night, you may wake
up tired or with a headache. And you may have nightmares. Or you may sweat so
much during the night that your pajamas or sheets are damp when you wake up.
How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?
hypoglycemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about
your health and any medicines you take. You will need tests to check your blood sugar levels.
You may also need tests to look for or rule out health problems that could be affecting your blood sugar levels.
How is it treated?
You can treat a sudden episode of
low blood sugar by eating or drinking something with sugar in it. Some examples of "quick-sugar foods" are fruit juice, soda, milk, raisins, and hard candy. You may also take glucose
tablets. This is usually all
that's needed to get your blood sugar level back up in the short term.
If your hypoglycemia is caused by a longer-term health problem, you may need treatment for that condition. There also may be steps you can take to avoid low blood sugar. For example, talk to your doctor about whether changes in your diet, medicines, or exercise habits might help.
What should you do in an emergency?
If mild or
moderate hypoglycemia isn't treated right away, it can turn into severe
hypoglycemia. People with severe hypoglycemia usually pass out. If you pass
out, someone should call 911 right away.
If you have a health problem that tends to cause low blood sugar, it’s a good idea to
teach your family, friends, and coworkers about what symptoms to watch for and what to do. You may also want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
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