Hypoglycemia Symptoms and Causes in Diabetes Patients

Preventing hypoglycemia in diabetes patients is the cornerstone in the management of side effects of anti-diabetic drugs, especially insulin. In order to do this successfully, you need to be able to identify hypoglycemia symptoms well. In my practice as a health care provider I now and then come across a case of an unconscious patient rushed into the emergency room accompanied by anxious relatives.

History taking would reveal a known diabetic patient on treatment who had had an excessive physical activity, a loss of appetite, or even poor sight. Preliminary assessment will show a blood glucose reading of less than 3,9 mmol (70mg/dl), a hypoglycemic urgency.

It is highly imperative that people on anti-diabetic drugs and their family members should know what can cause hypoglycemia and how to tell when they are in a hypoglycemic state.

Preventing Hypoglycemia

Before looking at how to prevent the occurrence of hypoglycemia we should naturally consider what really causes the problem at first. Preventing the problem is better than having to deal with it, you know! The most common cause of hypoglycemia in diabetic people is when a person has injected too much insulin. This may happen for two reasons. The patient may draw too much insulin into the syringe, mostly due to poor sight as in the elderly, or they did not eat enough between their insulin doses.

Either way, this usually leads to an emergency situation where acting quick makes a difference between life and death. Here it is very important for family members, friends and colleagues to know how to recognize a hypoglycemia symptoms and what to do. The symptoms of hypoglycemia are outlined below.

Other hypoglycemia causes:

Some medications

Some medications, like quinine (used to treat malaria) may trigger a serious drop in blood glucose leading to hypoglycemia.

Alcohol abuse

This is the most common cause of hypoglycemia in non-diabetic people. Alcohol has the capacity to inhibit the liver’s ability to release glucose into the blood. The liver stores excess glucose in the body, releasing it when there is a need for more glucose. The body needs this when the person has not eaten enough, something very common in alcohol abuse.

This is significant for especially diabetic people on insulin because it can mean that the liver is not able to release enough glucose to maintain the blood glucose levels until the next meal.

Liver diseases

More or less the same with alcohol abuse, some liver diseases like hepatitis can negatively affect the liver’s ability to release glucose.

Some kidney disorders

The kidneys metabolize and eliminate from the body all medications that enter the body. If the kidneys do not function well then medications like insulin stay in the body for longer, leading to undesirable drug effects.
Hypoglycemia Symptoms

Hypoglycemia Symptoms

Mild hypoglycemia Symptoms

  • Hunger
    This is the earliest and the most common sign of low blood sugar. It is the body’s way of reminding us to ‘fill up’. It commonly happens after one skips a meal. If this first sign is ignored the blood sugar levels drop further and the following will be experienced (not in any order):
  • Tremor (trembling/shakiness)
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Heart palpitations
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Tingling lips

More serious hypoglycemia symptoms

Hypoglycemia can also happen when one is asleep, especially if caused by alcohol abuse. Therefore, in this case the patient may not be able to realize that something is wrong with them. It is typically in such cases that mild low blood sugar can drop to dangerous levels.

Here are some of the more serious hypoglycemia symptoms:

  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Confusion
  • Irrational behavior
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Normally, the first vital organ to suffer is the brain. This is because the brain needs a continuous supply of glucose to function. The brain does not store glucose, it depends on constant supply of glucose and oxygen from other body organs.

The signs and symptoms that are listed above may be caused by other illnesses or conditions. The only way to be sure it is hypoglycemia is with a blood sugar test.

How to prevent hypoglycemia

Check blood glucose levels on regular basis

This is the only sure way to know when you are having hypoglycemia. It involves having the right type of glucometer and knowing how to use it properly. Make sure that you check your blood sugar levels regularly and whenever you don’t feel well. Lastly, know how to prevent hypoglycemia.

Do not skip meals

Ensure that you keep to your eating routine, don’t skip meals. At the same time, ensure that you eat healthy. It would even prove beneficial to always carry something small to eat in case suspect the symptoms of low blood sugar.

Be careful with alcohol

Remember that a heavy drinking session can trigger hypoglycemia, so avoid them. If you have had a drink eat something before going to sleep. Remember, hypoglycemia is even more fatal when you are asleep.

Exercise with moderation

Make sure you eat something before you do any exercise, especially excessive exercise. It would even be better to check the blood sugar level and know you have enough glucose in the body. Exercise in moderation, always guarding against the hypoglycemia symptoms.

Inform people you spent time with

Hypoglycemia can easily lead to loss of consciousness in a very short space of time. When people around you know about your condition they will always take an appropriate, speedy action help you and safe your life.