What Is Hypoglycemia And How Can You Prevent It?

Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when the level of glucose in the blood drops below normal levels. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the body's cells, and most of it is obtained from the food we eat, per Mayo Clinic. The body carefully regulates the level of glucose in the blood to ensure that it remains within a narrow range. A blood sugar level below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered low. Common symptoms include shakiness, sweating, weakness, a lack of concentration, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat. Hypoglycemia can cause seizures, coma, and even death in severe cases.

When glucose levels drop too low, the body releases hormones such as glucagon and epinephrine. These hormones signal the liver to break down stored glycogen into glucose and release it into the bloodstream. This helps raise the glucose level in the blood and provides the body with the energy it needs to function.

According to Cleveland Clinic, hypoglycemia can occur for various reasons. People with diabetes have a higher risk of hypoglycemia, which may result from taking too much insulin. It can also occur in people who do not have diabetes. This is particularly likely if they drink alcohol in excess or have an underlying medical condition that affects glucose metabolism — such as liver disease or a tumor that produces insulin.

How can you prevent hypoglycemia?

It is important to address the underlying cause of hypoglycemia to prevent new or future episodes. This may involve adjusting medication doses, and making dietary changes or lifestyle modifications. People with diabetes (or other conditions that increase the risk of hypoglycemia) should work closely with a doctor to develop a personalized plan for managing their condition.

One effective way is to monitor blood sugar levels, says Cleveland Clinic. This is especially important for people with diabetes, who are at high risk of experiencing low blood sugar levels. Frequent monitoring can help identify when blood sugar levels are getting too low, allowing the individual to prevent it from dropping further. Medication adjustments may also help people with diabetes who take insulin. Your doctor can determine the appropriate medication doses and make adjustments as needed. Following your doctor's advice regarding food intake and medications is also vital.

Treatment of hypoglycemia

The treatment of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, depends on the severity of the symptoms and the underlying cause. Mild hypoglycemia can often be treated with simple measures such as eating a snack like a banana,since they can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar. Mild cases of the condition can also be treated by drinking a small amount of juice or soda.

In cases of moderate to severe hypoglycemia, medical attention is necessary. If the individual is conscious and able to swallow, they may be given glucose gel, tablets, or an injection of glucagon. These treatments can quickly raise blood sugar levels. However, if the individual is unconscious, food must not be given. Attempting to give the person food (or put anything in their mouth) may cause choking. Rather, they may require an injection of glucagon by a healthcare provider. In some cases, intravenous glucose may be necessary to rapidly raise blood sugar levels, says Mayo Clinic.