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Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

Diabetes can produce a lot of serious medical complications, and some of these short-term complications include hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Both medical conditions are dangerous and are caused by abnormal glucose levels in the blood. Glucose is an important ingredient for normal body functioning. They are the body’s main source of energy, and controlling proper levels is essential for a healthy body.

People with diabetes have a problem maintaining normal levels of glucose. When glucose levels are abnormally high, they are said to be suffering from hyperglycemia. However, diabetics may also suffer from low-blood glucose levels, or what is termed as hypoglycemia.

What is Hypoglycemia?

A few hours after taking your insulin, you feel weak, dizzy and your skin feels cool and clammy. You might also feel lightheaded and short of breath even after a few minutes of walking. If you are a diabetic and you feel these symptoms, then you might be suffering from a medical condition called hypoglycemia.

Also called low-blood sugar, hypoglycemia is a medical condition wherein a person is found to be suffering from abnormally low levels of glucose in the body. Glucose is the product of carbohydrates; the higher the amount of carbohydrates found in food, the greater the amount of glucose in your blood. The amount and type of food taken directly affects blood glucose levels. This is especially true for diabetics who have a hard time maintaining proper levels because of insufficient amounts of insulin

People who have hypoglycemia have low-blood glucose levels and as a result suffer from fatigue and hunger. Glucose is needed by the body for energy and fatigue sets in when there are not enough sources of energy. Hunger is the body’s natural reaction when energy levels are low, and food is eaten to compensate for the body’s energy needs.

Glucose

Glucose is like fuel which powers the cells of your body. Without it, cells starve and eventually weaken the body. Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose, and they come from a wide variety of foods like fruits, vegetables, sugars and grains. Depending on what type or amount of food eaten, the levels of carbohydrates directly affect the amount of glucose found in the body.

Are you at risk?

Hypoglycemia is not only found in people with diabetes, this is also a symptom of other digestive and metabolic disorders. This condition is commonly found in people with diabetes and could easily be treated or managed. Knowing the early signs of hypoglycemia is important to avoid its many complications and long-term effects.

People with poor-eating habits and unhealthy diets are also prone to episodes of hypoglycemia. When the body is starved of its energy requirements, this causes hypoglycemic episodes. Patients who secrete abnormally high amounts of insulin also cause glucose levels to drop. This depletes reserve levels of glucose leaving them with inadequate sources of energy. Tumors in the pancreas where insulin is produce may also cause high secretion of insulin to be released in the bloodstream.

What happens if I have low-blood sugar levels?

Of all the major organs in the body, the brain is most susceptible to low-glucose levels. Glucose is the brain’s only source of energy and long-term effects of low-glucose levels may cause permanent brain defects. The brain depends exclusively on this sugar and cannot produce its own glucose. When blood-sugar levels fall below normal, the senses also drop.

When blood-sugar levels drop below 50-60 mg/dl patients may experience most of these symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Intense hunger
  • Cold clammy skin
  • Severe sweating
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Blurring of vision

It can lead to drowsiness, coma and seizures if you do not do something to raise your blood sugar.

Management and Immediate Treatment of Hypoglycemia

Emergency treatment of hypoglycemia includes restoring normal glucose levels in patients. This could be done by consuming four teaspoons of sugar which could be readily absorbed by the body. Patients are also advised to drink half a can of any juice or soda. Sports drinks like Gatorade could also be a good source of emergency sugars and can help restore glucose levels faster.

Eating cookies or other sweet pastries does not help in cases of hypoglycemia. These takes a long time before the body can convert the sugar and fats into glucose. Bouts of hypoglycemia require quick and immediate supplies of glucose.

When the episode has been controlled, a long-acting carbohydrate such as a sandwich is recommended.  This will maintain the body’s normal blood sugar levels.

In emergency cases where for some reason you can’t take anything by mouth, injection with glucagon is advised. If a glucagon injection is not available, patient should be immediately rushed to a nearby hospital for an intravenous administration of glucose.

When you have diabetes, you should always carry an identification bracelet or information in your wallet informing people about your condition. When you feel the early symptoms of hypoglycemia, it is recommended that you immediately consume emergency sources of glucose. Carrying a glucose source with you at all times can save your life. Diabetics are advised to manage their diet and medication in preparation for physical activity in order to avoid episodes of hypoglycemia.

Regular visits to a doctor are highly recommended, so that changes to diet and insulin adjustments can be made if you are experiencing recurrent hypoglycemia.

written by, Ronald Uy, RN

Sources:

Hypoglycemia. Retrieved December 11, 2009 from MedicineNet.com:http://www.medicinenet.com/hypoglycemia/article.htm

Hypoglycemia. Retrieved December 13, 2009 from MedlinePlus:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hypoglycemia.html

Hypoglycemia. Retrieved December 13, 2009 from MayoClinic.com:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hypoglycemia/DS00198

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