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Diabetic Hypoglycemia


What is diabetic hypoglycemia?

Diabetic hypoglycemia is a serious condition that happens when your blood glucose (sugar) level drops too low.

What increases my risk of diabetic hypoglycemia?

The following may cause your blood sugar level to drop too low:

  • A missed meal, or a meal eaten later than usual
  • Certain medicines, too much insulin or other diabetes medicine
  • More exercise than usual, without extra food
  • Alcohol
  • Pregnancy
  • Decreased liver or kidney function

What are the signs and symptoms of diabetic hypoglycemia?

  • Headache, hunger, or nervousness
  • Trouble thinking or moodiness
  • Sweating, or a pounding heartbeat
  • Forgetfulness, confusion, or double vision
  • Weakness or trouble walking
  • Numbness and tingling in your fingers or around your mouth
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness

How do I manage diabetic hypoglycemia?

  • Check your blood sugar level right away if you have symptoms of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is usually 70 mg/dl or below. Ask your healthcare provider what blood sugar level is too low for you.
  • If your blood sugar level is low, eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrate. This amount of carbohydrate can be found in 4 ounces (½ cup) of fruit juice, 4 ounces of regular soda, 2 tablespoons of raisins, or 3 to 4 glucose tablets. Check your blood sugar level 15 minutes later. If your blood sugar is still low, have another 15 grams of carbohydrate. When your blood sugar goes back to normal, eat a snack or meal to prevent another decrease in blood sugar. Always carefully follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how to treat low blood sugar levels.
  • Always carry a source of carbohydrate. If you have symptoms of hypoglycemia and you do not have a blood glucose meter, have a source of carbohydrate anyway. Avoid carbohydrate foods that are high in fat. The fat content may make it take longer to increase your blood sugar. Ask your healthcare provider if you should carry a glucagon kit. Glucagon is a medicine that is injected when you develop severe hypoglycemia and become unconscious. Check the expiration date every month and replace it before it expires.

  • Teach others how to help you if you have symptoms of hypoglycemia. Tell them about the symptoms of hypoglycemia. Ask them to give you a source of carbohydrate if you cannot get it yourself. Ask them to give you a glucagon injection if you have symptoms of hypoglycemia and you become unconscious or have a seizure. Ask them to call 911 . This is an emergency. Tell them never to try to make you swallow anything if you faint or have a seizure.
  • Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have diabetes. Ask where to get these items.

How do I prevent diabetic hypoglycemia?

  • Take diabetes medicine as directed. Take your medicine at the right time and in the right amount. Your healthcare provider may change your blood sugar goals if you get hypoglycemia often.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks. Talk to your dietitian or healthcare provider about a meal plan that is right for you. Do not skip meals.
  • Check your blood sugar level as directed. Ask your healthcare provider what your blood sugar levels should be before and after you eat. Ask when and how often to check your blood sugar level. You may need to check at least 3 times each day. Record your blood sugar level results and take the record with you when you see your healthcare provider. He may use the record to make changes to your medicine, food, or exercise schedules.

  • Check your blood sugar level before you exercise. Exercise can decrease your blood sugar. If your blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL, have a carbohydrate snack. Examples are 4 to 6 crackers, ½ banana, 8 ounces (1 cup) of nonfat or 1% milk, or 4 ounces (½ cup) of juice. If you will exercise for more than 1 hour, you may need to check your blood sugar every 30 minutes. Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you check your blood sugar after exercise.
  • Be aware of how alcohol affects your blood sugar level. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar level to drop for up to 12 hours after drinking. Ask your healthcare provider if alcohol is safe for you. If you drink alcohol, always have a snack or meal at the same time. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.

When should I or someone else call 911?

  • You have a seizure or pass out.
  • You feel you are going to pass out.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your blood sugar is less than 50 mg/dl and does not respond to treatment.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have had symptoms of low blood sugar several times.
  • You have questions about the amount of insulin or diabetes medicine you are taking.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

© 2015 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.