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What is diabetic hypoglycemia?

Constance Brown-Riggs
Nutrition & Dietetics

Hypoglycemia is also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar – it occurs when one’s blood glucose is lower than normal, usually less than 70 mg/dl. If you are taking medications or insulin to manage your diabetes hypoglycemia can occur as a result of;

  • Skipped, delayed or too-small meals
  • Too much insulin or oral medications
  • Increased physical activity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Signs of hypoglycemia include hunger, nervousness, shakiness, perspiration, dizziness or light-headedness, sleepiness, and confusion. Someone may notice a change in your behavior. If left untreated, hypoglycemia may lead to unconsciousness or seizure.

If you start to experience any symptoms of hypoglycemia, it’s a good idea to check your blood glucose levels immediately. If your reading is less than 70 mg/dl, try to raise your blood glucose quickly by practicing “the rule of 15:”

  • Take 15 grams of fast acting carbohydrate: 2 to 3 glucose tablets, 4 ounces of fruit juice, 4 ounces of regular soda, or 1 cup skim milk.
  • Wait 15 minutes and then re-check your blood glucose level. If it’s still too low, take another 15 grams of carbohydrate.
  • Repeat these steps until your blood glucose is at least 70 mg/dl.

It may also be treated with an injection of glucagon if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow.

If you have symptoms and are unable to check your blood glucose, it is better to treat yourself – as if you are low, rather than risk your glucose level going too low.

Diabetic hypoglycemia is low blood sugar often caused by an imbalance between diabetes medication and food consumption. Even though diabetes is associated with blood sugar that is too high, the medications used to lower the blood sugar may cause episodes of low blood sugar. Taking too much diabetes medication may cause an excess of insulin in the body, causing blood sugar levels to drop too far. Low blood sugar can also be a problem if a person with diabetes does not eat enough food.

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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.