Eating is an important cycle for our body. When we eat, our food breaks down into glucose in our bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, helps move our blood sugar into cells, and our cells use this glucose to provide energy for our bodies.
During the day, our blood sugar fluctuates as we eat, exercise, and go about our normal routine. But what happens when our blood sugar is too low?
What Is Hypoglycemia?
Generally, our blood sugar should remain above 70 mg/dL – if it falls below this number, we can develop hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. This condition is most common in people with diabetes who are on oral diabetes medication and/or insulin, but it can occur in others as well.
According to Mayo Clinic, hypoglycemia can occur for a number of reasons, such as:
- Not eating for several hours
- Poor blood sugar regulation
- Medications to treat type 2 diabetes
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Insulin overproduction and hormone deficiency
While each person’s target blood sugar range is different, the consequences of hypoglycemia are similar: when our blood sugar is too low, we can develop some very unpleasant symptoms. In addition, low blood sugar can lead to complications such as seizure, coma, or death.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypoglycemia
Symptoms of low blood sugar can vary from person to person, and can often be mistaken for other conditions. The only way to be sure that you are suffering from hypoglycemia is to check your blood using a glucometer.
Some of the most common symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Shakiness and clamminess
- Sweating and chills
- Feeling sleepy, weak, or having no energy
- Tingling or numbness in your lips, cheeks, and tongue
- Headaches and nausea
- Dizziness and having problems with coordination
- Feeling confused or disoriented
- Feelings of anxiety and nervousness
Severe hypoglycemia may also lead to worsening symptoms such as blurred visions, slurred words, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
How Do You Treat Hypoglycemia?
Low blood sugar is most common in people with type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes and experience symptoms of hypoglycemia, you need to raise your blood sugar to a safe level. You can usually do this by eating or drinking something with simple carbohydrates, like fruit juice, skim milk, candy, soda, or glucose tablets.
If you do not have diabetes, the hypoglycemia may be a result of an underlying condition, like medication or an issue with your pancreas. It may also be due to excessive alcohol consumption, hormone deficiencies or critical illnesses. You will need to visit a doctor immediately for an accurate diagnosis.
You should visit the emergency room if you experience hypoglycemia symptoms and:
- You don’t have diabetes
- You have diabetes and do not respond to initial treatment
- You have a history of hypoglycemia and experience severe symptoms or lose consciousness
Understanding your blood sugar can be a challenge, but it’s important to avoid complications such as hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes.
Consider investing in a glucometer, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly to reduce your risk of blood sugar-related chronic disease.