Low blood sugar levels, also called hypoglycemia, occur when the level of glucose in your blood drops too low, resulting in low blood glucose levels and some unfavourable symptoms such as feeling dizzy, hungry and/or tired. In those with diabetes, this tends to occur as a result of the following:
- Skipping or delaying a meal
- Intense exercise
- Taking too high a dose of diabetes medication such as insulin
While a particularly low blood sugar level tends to occur in those with diabetes, in very rare cases, certain conditions can cause low blood sugar in people without diabetes - this is known as non-diabetic hypoglycemia.
See also: What is Diabetes?
How do you feel when your sugar is low?
It’s normal for blood sugar levels to vary throughout the day for each and every one of us. With that said, when blood sugar levels fall particularly low, it’s important to take action. According to the American Diabetes Association, blood sugar levels are considered particularly low in those with diabetes when blood sugar is less than 70 mg/dL.
Although low blood sugar levels can affect everyone differently, and symptoms may change over time for each individual, it’s important to stay in the know with regards to certain early symptoms of low blood sugar.
Some of the most common and early symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- Feeling hungry
- Tingling lips
- Feeling shaky or trembling
- Feeling tired
- Fast heartbeat
- Feelings of anxiety
One of the most reliable ways to know whether or not your blood sugar level has fallen is to check your blood sugar. If you can confirm that they have fallen, the next important step is to treat it.
See also: What is the best treatment for diabetes?
How do you treat low blood sugar?
The American Diabetes Association suggests treating low blood sugar using what they call the “15-15 Rule”. This treatment involves consuming 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise glucose levels and checking your levels again after 15 minutes. Some foods that contain 15 grams of carbohydrates include:
- Three glucose tablets
- 4-6 ounces of fruit juice
- 2 tablespoons of raisins
- 6 jelly beans
- 5-6 ounces of regular soda
It’s suggested to repeat these steps until your levels reach 70 mg/dL. Once your levels have returned to normal, it’s important to have a small snack to keep them that way!
What can happen if low blood sugar isn’t treated?
If low blood sugar goes untreated, it can result in severe hypoglycemia - this is considered a serious emergency and is treated with glucagon - a hormone that can help to raise your blood sugar levels.
Signs and symptoms of severe hypoglycemia include :
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slurred speech or clumsiness
It’s important to remember that severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency and should be treated like so. If you don’t have access to glucagon, get in touch with your health care provider or the emergency services.
What causes low blood sugar without diabetes?
While hypoglycemia is often related to people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes - particularly if the person needs insulin to help in controlling their blood sugar, it can also occur in those without diabetes.
In very rare cases, certain drugs and conditions can cause low blood sugar in people who don’t have diabetes - this is known as non-diabetic hypoglycemia. There are two forms:
- Reactive hypoglycemia: This refers to low blood sugar within a few hours after eating a meal
- Fasting hypoglycemia: This refers to low blood sugar that occurs after a long period of not eating
Although the actual cause of both forms of hypoglycemia isn’t yet clear, there are some possible causes associated with both.
Some possible causes of reactive hypoglycemia include:
- Surgical procedures
- Metabolic disorders
Some possible causes of fasting hypoglycemia include:
- Certain medications
- Illnesses that affect the heart, kidneys, or liver
- Tumor in the pancreas
If you are frequently experiencing hypoglycemia symptoms, it’s important to reach out to your doctor to find out more and to rule out any other underlying conditions or causes.
If you’re interested in monitoring your blood sugar levels, you can do so from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s Diabetes Test measures your HbA1c levels which can help determine the amount of sugar in your blood. A high HbA1c result means that you have too much sugar in your blood. The test is used to determine your risk of diabetes (pre-diabetes) or how well your diabetes is being managed with online results available within 2-5 days.
You should consider taking the test if:
- You have diabetes type 1 or type 2
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You are presenting with symptoms of diabetes
See also: How do you Check for Diabetes From Home?