What is hypoglycemia?
There are two types of hypoglycemia:
- Reactive hypoglycemia: This usually occurs after having a meal.
- Fasting hypoglycemia: Often associated with medications or disease. Enzyme deficiencies are the main underlying cause of fasting hypoglycemia.
What causes hypoglycemia?
Causes of hypoglycemia include:
- Diabetes medication overdose (oral medicines or insulin)
- Fasting for prolonged period
- Diet changes
- Changes in metabolism
- Liver disease
- Tumor of the pancreas
- Abnormalities in a hormone-secreting gland
- Post weight-loss surgery
- Drugs such as ethanol, haloperidol, pentamidine, quinine
- Deficiency of hormones
- Serious illness of heart, liver and kidney
- Growth hormone insufficiency
- Rare enzyme defects
- Unknown causes
What are the first signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia?
The following signs and symptoms occur when blood sugar goes below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL):
- Pale skin
- Cold and moist skin
- Fast/irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty in speaking
Worsening of hypoglycemia results in:
How is hypoglycemia treated?
Hypoglycemia is primarily treated with medications. The main medications used in the treatment of hypoglycemia include:
- Glucose supplements: Dextrose
- Glucose-elevating agents: Glucagon
- Inhibitors of insulin hormone secretion: Diazoxide
- Anticancer agents: Streptozocin
Other therapies are:
- Dietary changes such as frequent snacking
- Intravenous glucose infusion
- Intravenous octreotide
- Dietary changes such as restriction of refined carbohydrates and avoidance of sugar
- Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors such as acarbose
Surgical treatment might be necessary for any tumor of the pancreas.
What should I know about hypoglycemia?
Severe hypoglycemia can be life-threatening and fatal. Patients with reactive hypoglycemia have a better chance of improvement with dietary changes.
Hypoglycemia, if severe, can lead to coma, heart problems, impaired memory, diminished language skills and impaired coordination.
Other recommendations are:
- Do not skip meals, especially if you have diabetes and are taking medications.
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes to one hour after meals.
- Monitor blood sugar levels routinely.
- Avoid excessive dosing of medications.
- Drink alcohol moderately.
- Include a balanced diet in your routine.
- Avoid consumption of sugar.
- Avoid driving if you have hypoglycemia.
Patients with hypoglycemia should learn to recognize early symptoms to avoid serious complications.
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