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. For most people, this level is around 50 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), though anything below 70 mg/dl is considered below normal. When blood glucose drops too low, your body does not have enough energy to function properly.
Medicine for diabetes is the most common cause particularly when combined with the following factors:
Reactive hypoglycemia may also occur in people without diabetes. It is now thought to be quite rare.
Other causes of hypoglycemia include:
Factors that may increase the risk of hypoglycemia include:
Symptoms may come on slowly or suddenly and may include:
As hypoglycemia worsens, symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask 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 medicines that lower your blood sugar levels, the doctor may do other tests 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.
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.
Measures that can help prevent hypoglycemia include:
If you are prone to severe hypoglycemia:
American Diabetes Association
Hypoglycemia Support Foundation
Canadian Diabetes Association
Hypoglycemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated February 3, 2012. Accessed July 31, 2012.
Hypoglycemia. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/hypoglycemia/index.aspx. Published October 2008. Accessed July 26, 2012.
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. Accessed July 26, 2012.
Kasper D, Harrison T. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2005.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Brian Randall
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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