Glucose is a type of sugar. It is your body's main source of energy. Hypoglycemia is a condition where the level of glucose in your blood becomes low enough to cause symptoms. When blood glucose drops too low, your body does not have enough energy to function properly.
Medications for diabetes are the most common cause, particularly when combined with the following factors:
Reactive hypoglycemia may also occur in people without diabetes. It is thought to be rare.
Other causes of hypoglycemia include:
Factors that may increase your chance of hypoglycemia include:
Symptoms may come on slowly or suddenly. Hypoglycemia may cause:
As hypoglycemia worsens, it may cause:
If you have frequent hypoglycemia, you may lose many of the early symptoms and be at particular risk of sudden loss of consciousness, seizure, or bizarre behavior. This could affect your ability to operate machinery or a motor vehicle. You will need to discuss any special instructions with your doctor.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
If hypoglycemia is suspected, your doctor will try to document your low blood sugar. Your blood glucose levels will be measured while you are having symptoms.
If you do not have diabetes, and you do not take medications that lower your blood sugar levels, other tests may be done to see if and why you are having low blood sugar levels. These tests may include checking your blood levels after periods of not eating.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:
Symptoms of low blood sugar can be relieved quickly by:
Some people who have prolonged or severe hypoglycemia take glucagon. Glucagon is an injectable hormone. It raises blood sugar levels.
Some cases of hypoglycemia are caused by a tumor. In this case, the tumor may need to be removed.
To help reduce your chance of hypoglycemia:
If you are prone to severe hypoglycemia:
American Diabetes Association
Hypoglycemia Support Foundation
Canadian Diabetes Association
Hypoglycemia. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/hypoglycemia/index.aspx. Updated November 6, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.
Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hypoglycemia-low-blood.html. Updated September 16, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
Hypoglycemia in diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116035/Hypoglycemia-in-diabetes. Updated January 15, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Hypoglycemia in persons without diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T904908/Hypoglycemia-in-persons-without-diabetes. Updated February 23, 2015. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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