Hypoglycemia: When Low Sugar isn’t Good Sugar

Last blog we talked about hyperglycemia (or high blood sugars) and the risks you take on when you allow your blood sugars to get too high.  Hypoglycemia is low blood sugars.  Patients with Type I diabetes and Type II patients on certain medications are at higher risk for hypoglycemia.  So what’s the big deal?  You aren’t supposed to have high blood sugar!  Low is better right?!  Wrong.  Low blood sugar can be dangerous.  More people die of hypoglycemia than from hyperglycemia.  It can push you into a seizure or a coma.  And this makes sense.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane in the Carbohydrates Blog.  Remember that your body needs carbohydrates to function.  Sugar is what your brain needs to function.  If your blood sugar is low, then your brain has nothing to work on and it shuts down.  No brain function means unconsciousness and even organ failure.  Here is a visual (please print it out) of signs of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.  Hyperglycemia is marked by:

  •  The Frequent Need to Urinate
  • Dry Skin
  • Extreme Thirst
  • Hunger
  • Change in Vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow Healing Wounds

If you see this happening to you or someone you know, even if they are not a diabetic, its time to test!  If the blood sugars are high for 3 days and you don’t know why its time to call the doctor.

Hypoglycemia is marked by:

  • Shakiness
  • Fast Heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiousness
  • Hunger
  • Sweating
  • Vision Changes
  • Weakness or Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability

If these things occur it’s time to check your blood sugar.  If it’s less than 70mg/dL it’s time to treat.  If you  can’t check your blood sugar it’s time to treat it anyway because higher blood sugar is far less dangerous than low blood sugar.  You treat by taking 3 to 4 glucose tabs, 3 to 4 hard candies (NOT sugar free), 4 oz of juice, or 1/2 a can of soda (NOT diet).  Candy bars are really not the best thing to use because the fats stop you from absorbing the sugar fast enough.  You will probably be starving when this happens, but try to not eat everything in site (this is soooo hard).  After 15 minutes retest.  If you are still low treat again.  If you have come up over 70 mg/dL then have a small meal like a sandwich. 

When any of these signs occur take your blood sugar and write it down.  These are things your doctor needs to know about.  If your blood sugar is getting low too often hypoglycemia unawareness can happen, which means that you don’t know when you become hypoglycemic.  This is extremely dangerous.  What happens if this occurs while your driving or alone?  I always tell patients who are prone to hypoglycemia to tell their friends and family members about the signs and then telling them how to handle them.  If you are constantly having hypoglycemia it is time to call the doctor.

Remember it is all about balance.  Watch your diet, exercise, and don’t over treat your diabetes.  And remember, keep a conversation going with your doctor!

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