Hypoglycemia: Signs, Symptoms, And How To Manage It

Hypoglycemia: Signs, Symptoms, And How To Manage It

Last Reviewed : 01/08/2021
Hypoglycemia: Signs, Symptoms, And How To Manage It


Hypoglycemia is the term that describes the health condition caused by low blood sugar levels. Sugar is an essential source of energy for the body, without which it cannot perform its normal functions. That sugar is known as glucose.

The glucose levels required for normal body functions range between 70-180mg/dl. The human body derives most of this glucose from carbohydrates present in the food we eat.

If blood sugar levels fall below 70 mg/dl, a person identifies as suffering from hypoglycemia. Random blood sugar higher than 180mg/dl is called hyperglycemia. Both hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia are undesirable as they can cause damage to the body.


Common signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemic symptoms vary from person to person and from episode to episode. Patients may develop few or all of these symptoms.

Although a blood glucose level less than 70 mg/dl is considered hypoglycemic, most patients do not develop noticeable symptoms until the levels are below 50 mg/dl.

Decreased glucose creates a stressful environment in the body, which triggers the release of catecholamines, like epinephrine. Epinephrine, a fight or flight hormone, stimulates the sympathetic activity in the body.

This sympathetic activation leads to signs and symptoms seen during a hypoglycemic attack. The following are some of the common signs and symptoms patients experience during a hypoglycemia attack.

  • Increased and irregular heart rate,
  • Sweating,
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness,
  • Palpitations,
  • Cold and clammy extremities,
  • Hunger,
  • Fatigue,
  • Pallor,
  • Shaking or trembling,
  • Unsteadiness while standing and walking,
  • Nervousness and anxiety,
  • Irritability and impatience.

Once you notice symptoms of hypoglycemia, you must seek immediate treatment to avoid developing more severe symptoms. These do not occur frequently but they can be life-threatening.

If you have any of the above symptoms, eat sugary foods like honey, sugar, juice, glucose tablets, or hard candy. Check your blood sugar levels after 15 minutes of eating. If the levels are still below 70 mg/dl, repeat the process until the glucose levels come back to normal. If the levels are persistently low, go to the ER immediately.


Can low blood sugar cause mental confusion?

To function efficiently, our brain requires a consistent supply of energy in the form of glucose. When blood glucose falls below safe levels, supply to the brain decreases, which results in altered mental status and other disrupted functions.

A severe hypoglycemia patient shows the following brain-related signs and symptoms:

  • Confusion,
  • Poor concentration,
  • Poor coordination or clumsiness,
  • Jerky movements,
  • Mood changes,
  • Blurred and double vision,
  • Headache,
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness,
  • Numbness or tingling in lips, tongue, and cheeks,
  • Slurred speech,
  • Muscle weakness,
  • Nightmares,
  • Falls and injuries,
  • Motor vehicle accidents,

During severe hypoglycemia attacks, older patients are also at a heightened risk of dementia.

If treatment is delayed, the result is even lower blood sugar levels and almost no glucose supply to the brain. This presents an extreme medical emergency that shows with symptoms like:

  • Seizures or convulsions,
  • Loss of consciousness,
  • Coma.
  • Death.

Diabetic patients are at a higher risk of developing hypoglycemia for various causes. Patients must seek medical help immediately. Although it rarely results in the death of patients, it is a possibility.


Precautions and tips to avoid hypoglycemia attacks

To lower the risk of hypoglycemia attacks, you should eat small frequent meals on time, not skip or delay meals, and eat a snack before exercise. If you experience any of the symptoms we discussed, immediately grab a chocolate or granola bar and eat it.

If you experience persistent, multiple episodes, talk to your physician. They will investigate and prescribe treatment for the underlying cause.

In the case of severe attacks, victims may be unable to seek help on their own. If you notice someone experiencing severe hypoglycemia symptoms, call 911 immediately. If the patient is unconscious, do not give them anything to eat as it can choke them.

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