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Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is most common in people who have diabetes. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and need more information about low blood sugar, see the topics:

  • Type 1 Diabetes.
  • Type 2 Diabetes.

What is low blood sugar?

You may have briefly felt the effects of low blood sugar when you've gotten really hungry or exercised hard without eating enough. This happens to nearly everyone from time to time. It's easy to correct and usually nothing to worry about.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

Taking Care of Your Diabetes Every Day

The four things you have to do every day to lower high blood sugar are: 1. Eat healthy food 2. Get regular exercise 3. Take your diabetes medicine 4. Test your blood sugar. Experts say most people with diabetes should try to keep their blood sugar level as close as possible to the level of someone who does not have diabetes. This may not be possible or right for everyone. Check with your doctor about the right range of blood sugar for you. You will get plenty of help in learning...

Read the Taking Care of Your Diabetes Every Day article > >

But low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can also be an ongoing problem. It occurs when the level of sugar in your blood drops too low to give your body energy.

What causes hypoglycemia in people who don't have diabetes?

Ongoing problems with low blood sugar can be caused by:

  • Diseases of the liver, kidneys, or pancreas.
  • Metabolic problems.
  • Certain medicines.
  • Alcohol use.
  • Stomach surgery.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can be different depending on how low your blood sugar level drops.

  • Mild hypoglycemia can make you feel hungry or like you want to vomit. You could also feel jittery or nervous. Your heart may beat fast. You may sweat. Or your skin might turn cold and clammy.
  • Moderate hypoglycemia often makes people feel short-tempered, nervous, afraid, or confused. Your vision may blur. You could also feel unsteady or have trouble walking.
  • Severe hypoglycemia can cause you to pass out. You could have seizures. It could even cause a coma or death.

If you've had hypoglycemia during the night, you may wake up tired or with a headache. And you may have nightmares. Or you may sweat so much during the night that your pajamas or sheets are damp when you wake up.

How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?

To diagnose hypoglycemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health and any medicines you take. You will need tests to check your blood sugar levels.

You may also need tests to look for or rule out health problems that could be affecting your blood sugar levels.

How is it treated?

You can treat a sudden episode of low blood sugar by eating or drinking something with sugar in it. Some examples of "quick-sugar foods" are fruit juice, soda, milk, raisins, and hard candy. You may also take glucose tablets. This is usually all that's needed to get your blood sugar level back up in the short term.

If your hypoglycemia is caused by a longer-term health problem, you may need treatment for that condition. There also may be steps you can take to avoid low blood sugar. For example, talk to your doctor about whether changes in your diet, medicines, or exercise habits might help.

What should you do in an emergency?

If mild or moderate hypoglycemia isn't treated right away, it can turn into severe hypoglycemia. People with severe hypoglycemia usually pass out. If you pass out, someone should call911right away.

If you have a health problem that tends to cause low blood sugar, it’s a good idea to teach your family, friends, and coworkers about what symptoms to watch for and what to do. You may also want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.

1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 16, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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Low
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Normal
70-130
High
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Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 and 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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