Hypoglycemia In Infancy

What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a condition that causes your infant's blood glucose (sugar) level to drop too low. When your infant's blood sugar level drops too low, his brain cells and muscles do not have enough energy to work well. Glucose is needed to help an infant's brain grow normally. Hypoglycemia may be short-term or ongoing.

What increases my infant's risk for short-term hypoglycemia?

  • Your infant was born earlier than expected (before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

  • Your infant was born at a low birth weight and length.

  • Your infant's body makes too much insulin. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose out of the blood stream and into the cells to be used for energy. This condition is called hyperinsulinism. Infants born to a mother who has diabetes or had toxemia while she was pregnant are at risk for this condition. Toxemia is high blood pressure and protein in the urine.

What causes ongoing hypoglycemia in infants?

  • Hyperinsulinism caused by a genetic disorder (a disorder that an infant is born with)

  • Low levels of certain hormones

  • Problems with the way your infant's body uses glucose

  • Medical conditions such as ketotic hypoglycemia (the body changes fats into glucose for energy)

What are the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia in infants?

Signs and symptoms may be mild and not easily seen. Newborns may not have any symptoms at all. Your infant may have any of the following:

  • Breathing that stops for short periods of time

  • Blue or purple skin color

  • Low body temperature

  • Problems eating well

  • Seizures

  • Sluggish or drowsy behavior

How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?

Caregivers will ask about your infant's symptoms and family health history. They may ask about the amount of time between your infant's last meal and the start of his symptoms. They may also ask if any other children in your family have a history of hypoglycemia. Caregivers will examine your baby closely. He may need any of the following:

  • A fasting test may be done. Caregivers watch your infant closely during a period of time in which your infant does not eat. This test is done to cause hypoglycemia to occur. When hypoglycemia occurs, caregivers will do tests to find the cause.

  • Blood and urine tests are done to measure your child's blood sugar levels and find the cause of his hypoglycemia.

How is hypoglycemia in infants treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your infant's hypoglycemia. Feed your infant often to help increase his glucose level. Your infant may also need to be given glucose through an IV at a hospital. An IV is a small tube placed in your infant's vein that is used to give him medicine or liquids. Some infants may also need to be fed a special diet. Infants with continuous hypoglycemia may need medicine to manage the hypoglycemia. If medicine does not work, a small or large part of the pancreas may need to be removed. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin.

When should I contact my infant's caregiver?

  • Your infant has side effects from his medicines.

  • Your infant is not eating well.

  • You have questions or concerns about your infant's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your infant has problems breathing.

  • Your infant has seizures.

  • Your infant is sluggish (less alert than usual).

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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