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Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

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Causes of Hypoglycemia in Diabetes

People with diabetes get hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when their bodies do not have enough sugar to use as fuel.

Several things can cause hypoglycemia, including diet and some medications. Certain medical conditions can also make hypoglycemia more common in people with diabetes. Exercise may also trigger hypoglycemia.

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Keep a record of the date and time of day of your hypoglycemia and what you did. This can help your doctor look for a pattern and adjust your medications.

Call your doctor if you have more than one unexplained low blood sugar reaction in the same week.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Most people feel symptoms of hypoglycemia when their blood sugar is 70 mg/dL or lower.

Each person with diabetes may have different symptoms of hypoglycemia. You will learn to recognize yours.

Early symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling shaky
  • Hunger
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Pounding heart; racing pulse
  • Pale skin
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety

Without treatment, more severe hypoglycemia symptoms may develop, including:

  • Headache
  • Feeling irritable
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor concentration
  • Numbness in mouth and tongue
  • Passing out
  • Nightmares or bad dreams
  • Coma

Diabetes Drugs Linked to Hypoglycemia

Certain types of diabetes medications can cause low blood sugar. Ask your doctor if any of your medicines do that.

Older types of diabetes drugs tend to cause low blood sugar more often than some of the newer ones. Examples of older drugs include:

You can also get low blood sugar if you drink alcohol or take aspirin, Benemid, Coumadin (warfarin), Zyloprim (allopurinol), or Probalan (probenecid) with diabetes medications.

You shouldn't get hypoglycemia if you take alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, biguanides (such as metformin), and thiazolidinediones alone, but it can happen when you take them with other diabetes medicines.

Diet and Hypoglycemia

You can also get hypoglycemia if you take too much insulin for the amount of carbohydrates you eat or drink.

For instance, it can happen after you eat a meal that has a lot of simple sugars, or if you miss a snack or don't eat a full meal, or if you eat later than usual, or if you drink alcohol without eating any food.

It's important to not skip meals if you have diabetes, particularly if you're taking diabetes medications.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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