A person with abnormally low levels of blood sugar (glucose) has Hypoglycemia. Glucose is the body's main energy source. Hypoglycemia is not a disease in itself; it is a sign of a health problem.
Immediate treatment of hypoglycemia involves quick steps to get your blood sugar level back into a normal range — about 70 to 100 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dL (3.9 to 5.6 millimoles per liter or mmol/L) — either with high-sugar foods or medications. Long-term treatment requires identifying and treating the underlying cause of hypoglycemia.
Early signs and symptoms of mild hypoglycemia usually include:
Pallor (face goes pale)
Accelerated heart rate
The brain needs a continuous supply of glucose to function. The brain neither stores nor manufactures glucose.
When the hypoglycemia is more severe the following signs or symptoms are possible:
Irrational and disorderly behavior (similar to somebody who is drunk)
Loss of consciousness (uncommon)
There are several reasons why this may happen, the most common being a side effect of drugs used for the treatment of diabetes.
Possible causes, with diabetes:If you have diabetes, the effects of insulin on your body are drastically diminished, either because your pancreas doesn't produce enough of it (type 1 diabetes) or because your cells are less responsive to it (type 2 diabetes). As a result, glucose tends to build up in your bloodstream and may reach dangerously high levels. To correct this problem, you likely take insulin or other drugs designed to lower blood sugar levels.
If you take too much insulin relative to the amount of glucose in your bloodstream, it can cause your blood sugar level to drop too low, resulting in hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia may also result if, after taking your diabetes medication, you don't eat as much as usual (ingesting less glucose) or you exercise more (using up more glucose) than you normally would.
Possible causes, without diabetes: Hypoglycemia in people without diabetes is much less common. Causes may include the following:
Medications. Taking someone else's oral diabetes medication accidentally is a possible cause of hypoglycemia.
Excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking heavily without eating can block your liver from releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream, causing hypoglycemia.
Some critical illnesses. Severe illnesses of the liver, kidney and anorexia nervosa cause hypoglycemia.
Insulin overproduction. A rare tumor of the pancreas (insulinoma) may cause overproduction of insulin, resulting in hypoglycemia. People who've undergone gastric bypass surgery are at risk of this condition.
Endocrine deficiencies. Certain disorders of the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland can result in a deficiency of key hormones that regulate glucose production. Children with these disorders are more prone to hypoglycemia than are adults.
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.