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How does hypoglycemia affect the body?

Hypoglycemia refers to blood sugar levels that drop below the normal range. When blood sugar becomes too low, the body releases a hormone called epinephrine (adrenaline), which causes the body to release stored sugar into the blood. Epinephrine produces symptoms such as hunger, sweating, and shaking. As blood sugar drops even more, the body cannot get enough sugar to the brain, and additional symptoms develop due to the decrease in sugar to the brain. This causes the dizziness, confusion, and weakness of hypoglycemia. As blood sugar continues to drop, and the brain does not have enough sugar to function properly, more severe effects occur, including permanent brain damage, seizures, coma, and death.

Hypoglycemia is low blood glucose. When blood glucose levels get too low in people with diabetes, they might feel shaky, dizzy, sweaty, and irritable. They might also have tingly lips and a headache.

Your blood sugar is low when the numbers are 70 mg/dL or less. Low blood sugar is also called hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar can:

  • Make you feel hungry
  • Make you sweat
  • Cause headaches
  • Cause weakness
  • Make you feel dizzy or shaky
  • Make you feel anxious or cranky
  • Cause you to feel confused
  • Make your heart feel like it's beating too fast
  • Make you look pale

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, check your blood sugar. If it is low, eat or drink a source of quick sugar -- like 5-6 pieces of hard candy, 3-4 glucose tablets, or 6 ounces of fruit juice or soft drink (not diet). Check your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. If it's not better, eat or drink a source of quick sugar again. When you feel better, have a protein snack like cheese and crackers or half a peanut butter sandwich. Talk with your doctor if you have two or more low blood sugars in one week.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.