Symptoms of Hypoglycemia and How to Treat It
To keep our blood glucose in a target range, it should not be too high nor too low. In case we have diabetes or someone we know, it is important that we understand what hypoglycemia is.
Hypoglycemia occurs when the blood glucose levels are very low. Typically that is less than 70 mg/dl. It is important to consult with a doctor about our own target when it comes to the levels of our blood glucose. (1)
Our doctor will tell us what level is too low for us. This condition can also be called as insulin shock or insulin reaction.
The symptoms are actually important clues to find out if we have low levels of blood glucose. And actually, the reaction to hypoglycemia is different for every individual. It is good that we learn and become aware of our own symptoms and signs when we experience low blood glucose. (2)
The most accurate and sure way to find out whether we have hypoglycemia is to check the blood glucose. However, if we find ourselves in a situation where we are not able to do that we need to treat this condition. Severe cases of hypoglycemia can cause injuries, accidents, coma, and even worse. (3)
18 Symptoms and Signs of Hypoglycemia
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Crying out during sleep or nightmares
- Sweating, clamminess, and chills
- Lack of coordination
- Impatience or irritability
- Anger, sadness or stubbornness
- Confusion, including delirium
- Weakness or fatigue
- Rapid/Fast heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Tingling or numbness in the tongue or lips
- Hunger and nausea
- Blurred/impaired vision
4 Steps to Treat Hypoglycemia
#1 We need to consume 15 to 20 grams of simple carbohydrates or glucose. (4)
#2 Then, after 15 minutes we need to recheck the blood glucose. (5)
#3 If the hypoglycemia continues, we need to repeat this.
#4 Once it is in its normal target level, we can eat a snack in case the next meal we’ve planned is not for an hour or maybe two hours.
Commonly used 15 grams of simple carbohydrates:
- Gumdrops, jelly beans, hard candies (check the package to determine the amount we should consume)
- Glucose tablets (follow the instructions on the package)
- Eight ounces of nonfat or 1 percent milk
- Gel tube (follow the instructions on the package)
- One tbsp. corn syrup, honey, or sugar
- Two tbsp. of raisins
- Four ounces (1/2 cup) of juice or regular soda (not diet)
If we experience hypoglycemia and not treat it that might cause unconsciousness such as passing out, coma and also it might cause a seizure. In this case, glucagon is a must. What is glucagon?
The glucagon is actually a hormone that helps and stimulates our liver to release the stored glucose in the bloodstream in time when the blood glucose levels are very low.
There are special injectable glucagon kits. These kits are used in the form of medication and are used to treat when someone passes out from an acute insulin reaction.
We need a prescription in order to have a glucagon kits. We need to consult our doctor if we need one, and when and how to use this kit.
In fact, people that are in frequent and constant contact with coworkers, significant others and family members that have hypoglycemia should learn how to perform and put glucagon in case they need to treat serious hypoglycemic events.
In case we find ourselves in this type of situation, and the hypoglycemic person has a seizure, or passes out and does not wake up, and there is no glucagon, or we do not know how to inject it, we should call 911.
If Glucagon Is Needed:
- Follow the instructions from the manufacturer and inject glucagon into the person’s thigh, buttock or arm.
- When the person wakes up i.e. regains consciousness that is usually after 5 or in some cases 15 minutes, they might experience vomiting or nausea.
- In case we are the individual that needed glucagon, we should consult our doctor and let him/her know about our situation and see what we can do to prevent future serious hypoglycemia.
- Put hands in mouth (the person can choke)
- Inject insulin (will lower blood glucose even more)
- Provide food or fluids (the person can choke)
Checking our blood glucose levels is important. Why? Because we might be one of the many that experience hypoglycemia unawareness. The symptoms of this condition occur when the levels of blood glucose are below 70 mg/dl.
However, some people are below this particular level, and yet they have no symptoms. This is actually hypoglycemia unawareness. These individuals are likely to be awakened from sleep in case the hypoglycemia happens at night.
Hypoglycemia Unawareness Occurs More Frequently With People Who:
- Have a tight control over their diabetes (that can increase the chances of having reactions such as low blood glucose)
- Frequently experience episodes of low blood glucose (which might cause to stop feeling the early signs of hypoglycemia)
- If individuals have had the disease for a long time.
We should consult our doctor in case we believe that we might have hypoglycemia unawareness. Our doctor can raise or adjust the targets of our blood glucose, and that can help us avoid future episodes.
Other Causes of Symptoms
Some people have symptoms of this condition even when the levels of their blood glucose are higher than the usual 70 mg/dl.
This occurs when a person has high blood glucose levels, and they suddenly start to go down. In case this happens, they need to talk to a doctor.
Those with diabetes, especially those who use insulin, need to have at all times a medical ID with them. In the case of an emergency like a car accident or severe episode of hypoglycemia the medical ID can be useful.
The medical ID can provide the emergency medical personnel with critical information about the individual’s health status, whether they have the disease, use or not use insulin, whether they have certain types of allergies, and more. (6)
Usually, the medical IDs are worn as a necklace or bracelet. The traditional IDs have vital information about the health of an individual.
However, some modern and innovative IDs have compact USB drives. In the USB drive, there is a full medical record of an individual in case of emergency. (7)
How to Prevent Low Blood Glucose?
The best thing to do is to control blood glucose levels and to learn how to recognize symptoms of hypoglycemia in order to treat it early.