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Hypoglycemia: Know Your Risk

The causes, symptoms and effects

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

I recently came across the results of an online survey showing not all people with diabetes know just how serious hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be. The findings in the survey surprised me, so I thought it might be beneficial for me to learn more about the causes, symptoms and effects of hypoglycemia. During my research, I also found information for treating hypoglycemia if it does occur.

The “Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Lack Knowledge about Hypoglycemia” survey published on Medscape Medical News, included more than 2,530 U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes and shows that many people with type 2 diabetes are not aware of their hypoglycemia risk. Furthermore, survey respondents didn’t know the most common causes and symptoms of hypoglycemia. The survey results also raise safety concerns, with many people experiencing hypoglycemia on the job, while exercising and while driving. These research findings drove me to do even more digging from which I wanted to share some information with you.

Know the Causes
In order for people living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to avoid hypoglycemia, it’s important to know some of the more common causes; such as, certain diabetes medications, including insulin, excessive exercise and drinking alcohol. Further, if insulin is a part of your treatment plan, skipping meals or not eating enough is one of the biggest triggers.

Know the Symptoms
It’s very important to be able to recognize if you’re experiencing hypoglycemia so you can promptly address it. Some of the more common symptoms are dizziness and shakiness. NIDDK shares that other symptoms can include hunger, sweating, sleepiness, anxiety or confusion.

Hypoglycemia can happen even while you sleep. Look out for signs like crying out or nightmares, sweating excessively, and feeling tired, confused or irritable when you wake up.

Know How to Treat It
WebMD has a great Diabetes Health Center, which states that if left untreated, severe hypoglycemia can lead to unconsciousness, seizures, coma or even death. So, let’s talk about what to do if you experience hypoglycemia. First, check your blood sugar. If it’s below 70 mg/dL, both NIDDK and ADA suggest you have a sugary snack or drink with 15 grams of carbohydrate. Some good choices are:

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice or regular soda
  • 2 tablespoons of raisins
  • 4 or 5 saltine crackers
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of honey or corn syrup

I also found it is a good idea to always carry at least one type of sugary food with you; and, ask your doctor or dietitian for a list of foods you can use to treat low blood sugar. To learn more about hypoglycemia and get additional information, the American Diabetes Association and the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse are good resources.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have tips on how you manage hypoglycemia, please share them in the comments section below.

All the best,

Laura K.

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