The NIDDK on Hypoglycemia
What Are the Symptoms of Hypoglycemia?
A person with hypoglycemia may feel weak,
drowsy, confused, hungry, and dizzy. Paleness, headache, irritability,
trembling, sweating, rapid heart beat, and a cold, clammy feeling are also
signs of low blood sugar. In severe cases, a person can lose consciousness and
even lapse into a coma.
The symptoms associated with hypoglycemia are
sometimes mistaken for symptoms caused by conditions not related to blood
sugar. For example, unusual stress and anxiety can cause excess production of
catecholamines, resulting in symptoms similar to those caused by hypoglycemia
but having no relation to blood sugar levels.
Hypoglycemia in Diabetes
The most common cause of hypoglycemia is as a
complication of diabetes. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot use glucose for
fuel because either the pancreas is not able to make enough insulin or the
insulin that is available is not effective. As a result, glucose builds up in
the blood instead of getting into body cells.
The aim of treatment in diabetes is to lower
high blood sugar levels. To do this, people with diabetes may use insulin or
oral drugs, depending on the type of diabetes they have or the severity of
their condition. Hypoglycemia occurs most often in people who use insulin to
lower their blood sugar. All people with type 1 diabetes and some people with
type 2 diabetes use insulin. People with type 2 diabetes who take oral drugs
called sulfonylureas are also vulnerable to low blood sugar
Conditions that can lead to hypoglycemia in
people with diabetes include taking too much medication, missing or delaying a
meal, eating too little food for the amount of insulin taken, exercising too
strenuously, drinking too much alcohol, or any combination of these factors.
People who have diabetes often refer to hypoglycemia as an "insulin
Managing Hypoglycemia in Diabetes
People with diabetes should consult their
health care providers for individual guidelines on target blood sugar ranges
that are best for them. The lowest safe blood sugar level for an individual
varies, depending on the person's age, medical condition, and ability to sense
hypoglycemic symptoms. A target range that is safe for a young adult with no
diabetes complications, for example, may be too low for a young child or an
older person who may have other medical problems.