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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetic Shock and Insulin Reactions

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Severe hypoglycemia, or diabetic shock, is a serious health risk for anyone with diabetes. Also called insulin reaction, as a consequence of too much insulin, it can occur anytime there is an imbalance between the insulin in your system, the amount of food you eat, or your level of physical activity. It can even happen while you are doing all you think you can do to manage your diabetes.

The symptoms of diabetic shock may seem mild at first. But they should not be ignored. If it isn't treated quickly, hypoglycemia can become a very serious condition that causes you to faint, requiring immediate medical attention. Diabetic shock can also lead to a coma and death. It's important that not only you, but your family and others around you, learn to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and know what to do about them. It could save your life.

What Is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a low level of blood sugar. The cells in your body use sugar from carbohydrates for energy. Insulin, which normally is made in the pancreas, is necessary for sugar to enter the cells. It helps keep the levels of sugar in the blood from getting too high.

It's important to maintain the proper level of sugar in your blood. Levels that are too high can cause severe dehydration, which can be life threatening. Over time, excess sugar in the body does serious damage to organs such as your heart, eyes, and nervous system.

Ordinarily, the production of insulin is regulated inside your body so that you naturally have the amount of insulin you need to help control the level of sugar. But if your body doesn't make its own insulin or if it can't effectively use the insulin it does produce, you need to inject insulin as a medicine or take another medication that will increase the amount of insulin your body does make. So if you need to medicate with insulin, it becomes your responsibility to see that you have the amount of insulin you need when you need it.

When to take insulin or another medication and how much to use depends on when, what, and how much food you eat. It also depends on your level of physical activity since the cells in your body use more sugar when you are active. Hypoglycemia is basically a reaction to too much insulin in your system. The insulin speeds up the lowering of the blood glucose level. Then without eating or with your body burning sugar faster because of physical activity, the level of sugar becomes dangerously low.

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