Hypoglycemia

According to The American Diabetes Association, hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by abnormally low blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, usually less than 70 mg/dl. Hypoglycemia can be caused from too much insulin, inadequate food intake or poor timing of meals, or exercise without adequate adjustments. There are three categories of hypoglycemia which include: mild, moderate, and severe.

Mild hypoglycemia includes the symptoms below. If untreated, the symptoms can become moderate or severe:

  • Hunger
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Sweating

Patients with moderate hypoglycemia are able to self-treat, or, they are able to ask for assistance. If a patient experiences moderate hypoglycemia, they will demonstrate some or all of the following characteristics:

  • Personality change
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred or slow speech

Severe hypoglycemia disables the patient and requires another person to give treatment. The symptoms below are symptoms of severe hypoglycemia:

  • Disoriented
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

The reactions of hypoglycemia can cause complications to the central nervous system such as cognitive dysfunction, intellectual decline, coma, brain damage, and seizures. As well as complications to the heart such as cardiac arrhythmias and myocardial ischemia. In addition to the risk factors for patients, clinical consequences can result. Hospital admissions and increased mortality can be a detrimental effect from hypoglycemia.

The best treatment is prevention.

It is important for patients to become aware of signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and to have regular meal and snack times. Patients should always carry a form of 15-20 grams of glucose or simple carbohydrates (such as glucose tablets, gel tubes, juice, soda, honey, raisins, or hard candies) should hypoglycemia occur. Regular blood glucose monitoring and appropriate insulin dosing is imperative and any recurrent or unexplained hypoglycemia needs to addressed with the patient’s physician.