Feeling Low? Take Control of Hypoglycemia

Do you sometimes feel irritable, confused or overly tired? You might be experiencing hypoglycemia. Learn how to prevent and manage this serious diabetes complication.

Medically reviewed in May 2021

Many people experience hypoglycemia without realizing it. Often, they eat their next light snack or meal, and their blood sugar returns to normal. Not recognizing the symptoms of hypoglycemia can be dangerous. Untreated mild to moderate hypoglycemia can lead to unconsciousness, diabetic coma and, in rare situations, death. The good news is that hypoglycemia can be prevented and managed. You can take simple steps to keep your blood sugar levels under control, and restore them if needed.

What is hypoglycemia?
Normal blood sugar levels, even during fasting, are usually greater than 70 mg/dL. Blood sugar levels that drop below normal are considered hypoglycemic, and can be caused by skipping meals, leaving too much time between meals, not eating enough, incorrect medication use (especially insulin), vomiting, diarrhea, vigorous exercise or drinking too much alcohol. While hypoglycemia can occur at any time, it is most common at night and early morning.

Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include hunger, irritability, confusion, sweating, fatigue, weakness, increased heart rate, nausea, shakiness and anxiety. The best way to confirm hypoglycemia is to check your blood sugar. If you have trouble recognizing symptoms of hypoglycemia, check your blood sugar regularly throughout the day, especially before driving.

6 steps for treating mild to moderate hypoglycemia
A simple way to treat hypoglycemia is to restore your blood sugar level using the "Rule of 15." Follow these six steps.

  1. Use a glucose monitor to find out if your blood sugar level is below 70 mg/dL.
  2. If it is, eat 15 grams of simple, concentrated carbohydrates (for example, a teaspoon of sugar, 2 tablespoons of raisins or 5 to 6 hard candies).
  3. Wait 15 minutes.
  4. Check your blood sugar again.
  5. If your blood sugar is still low, eat or drink an additional 15 grams of carbohydrates.
  6. Follow up with a light snack (or with a meal if it is mealtime).

Written in partnership with TCOYD - Taking Control of Your Diabetes.

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