The NIDDK on Hypoglycemia
Managing Hypoglycemia in Diabetes continued...
Because they are attuned to the symptoms,
people with diabetes can usually recognize when their blood sugar levels are
dropping too low. They can treat the condition quickly by eating or drinking
something with sugar in it such as candy, juice, or nondiet soda. Taking
glucose tablets or gels (available in drug stores) is another convenient and
quick way to treat hypoglycemia.
People with type 1 diabetes are most
vulnerable to severe insulin reactions, which can cause loss of consciousness.
A few patients with long-standing insulin-dependent diabetes may develop a
condition known as hypoglycemia unawareness, in which they have difficulty
recognizing the symptoms of low blood sugar. For emergency use in patients with
type 1 diabetes, physicians often prescribe an injectable form of the hormone
glucagon. A glucagon injection (given by another person) quickly eases the
symptoms of low blood sugar, releasing a burst of glucose into the
Emergency medical help may be needed if the
person does not recover in a few minutes after treatment for hypoglycemia. A
person suffering a severe insulin reaction may be admitted to the hospital so
that blood sugar can be stabilized.
People with diabetes can reduce or prevent
episodes of hypoglycemia by monitoring their blood sugar levels frequently and
learning to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar and the situations that
may trigger it. They should consult their health care providers for advice
about the best way to treat low blood sugar. Friends and relatives should know
about the symptoms of hypoglycemia and how to treat it in case of
Episodes of hypoglycemia in people with type
1 diabetes may become more common now that research has shown that carefully
controlled blood sugar helps prevent the complications of diabetes. Keeping
blood sugar in a close-to-normal range requires multiple injections of insulin
each day or use of an insulin pump, frequent testing of blood glucose, a diet
and exercise plan, and guidance from health care professionals.
Other Causes of Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia in people who do not have
diabetes is far less common than once believed. However, it can occur in some
people under certain conditions such as early pregnancy, prolonged fasting, and
long periods of strenuous exercise. People on beta blocker medications who
exercise are at higher risk of hypoglycemia, and aspirin can induce
hypoglycemia in some children. Drinking alcohol can cause blood sugar to drop
in some sensitive individuals, and hypoglycemia has been well documented in
chronic alcoholics and binge drinkers. Eating unripe ackee fruit from Jamaica
is a rare cause of low blood sugar.