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Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)

What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by a glucose (blood sugar) level that is too low to effectively fuel the body’s blood cells. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body. According to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the good range of blood sugar is approximately 70 to 120 mg/dL (milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood). Blood sugar levels under 70 mg/dL are too low and are considered unhealthy.

Hypoglycemia may be a condition by itself, or may be a complication of diabetes or another disorder. It is most often seen as a complication of diabetes, which is sometimes referred to as insulin reaction.

What causes hypoglycemia?

Causes of hypoglycemia in people with diabetes may include the following:

  • too much medication
  • a missed meal
  • a delayed meal
  • too little food eaten as compared to the amount of insulin taken

Other causes of hypoglycemia are rare, but may occur in early pregnancy, after strenuous exercise, or during prolonged fasting. Hypoglycemia may also result from taking certain medications, abusing alcohol, or other rare causes.

Treatment for hypoglycemia:

Specific treatment for hypoglycemia will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

For persons with diabetes, the goal of treatment is to maintain a blood sugar level that is appropriate for each individual. This involves testing blood sugar often, learning to recognize the oncoming symptoms, and treating the condition quickly, based on prior instructions from the physician.

To treat low blood sugar immediately, you should eat or drink something that has sugar in it, such as orange juice, milk, or a hard candy.