Islets of Hope for persons with diabetes
Article by Lahle Wolfe, Founder, Islets of Hope. For article use and reprint permission please contact:
Onset: Rapid; sudden, may not be preventable.
Causes Related to Diabetes: Missing snacks or meals, eating too little food, taking too much insulin, too much activity, side effects of medications taken, or a combination of these things.
Causes Unrelated to Diabetes: Reacting fasting hypoglycemia, fasting hypoglycemia (which may indicate an underlying disease).
ALERT: All lows are potentially dangerous and can lead to seizure, convulsion, unconsciousness, and death if not treated. If you are unable to test someone's blood glucose, always assume the person is low and treat for low blood glucose. Call 911 and test blood glucose as soon as possible.
Did You Know?
...that aspirin in large doses, and sulfa drugs used to treat infections can cause low blood glucose?
...that in reactive hypoglycemia, symptoms appear within 4 hours after you eat a meal?
Check out IOH's Diet & Recipe Section for Comparisons and Information on Low-Fat, Low-carb, Low-Glycemic, and Diabetes Exchange Meal Plans
Points to Remember
If you think your blood glucose is low, check it and treat the problem right away.
Use the 15-15 rule to treat hypoglycemia
To treat hypoglycemia, take a fast-acting sugars of 15 grams of carbohydrates (or whatever your care plan suggests). Wait 15 minutes, and recheck your blood glucose. Repeat the treatment until your blood glucose is above 70.
Keep fast-acting sugars in the car, at work, school, and home —anywhere you spend time.
Be careful when you are driving. Check your blood glucose frequently and snack as needed to keep your level above 70 mg/dL.
Hypoglycemia Unrelated to Diabetes
In reactive hypoglycemia, symptoms occur within 4 hours of eating. People with this condition are usually advised to follow a healthy eating plan recommended by a registered dietitian.
Fasting hypoglycemia can be caused by certain medications, critical illnesses, hereditary enzyme or hormonal deficiencies, and some kinds of tumors. Treatment targets the underlying problem.
Hypoglycemia in nondiabetic persons
Causes, symptoms, treatment & prevention
Mini site index
Hypoglycemia in People Who Do Not Have Diabetes
Two types of hypoglycemia can occur in people who do not have diabetes: reactive (postprandial, or after meals) and fasting (postabsorptive). Reactive hypoglycemia is not usually related to any underlying disease; fasting hypoglycemia often is.
Symptoms of Non-Diabetes Related Hypoglycemia
Symptoms of hypoglycemia in diabetes non-diabetes causes are similar. It is important to remember that people can react differently to low blood glucose levels. Children will often become belligerent and weepy but Elizabeth (my daughter), acts like she is drunk; wobbly and silly, laughing hysterically at everything and anything.
Generally, symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
Any of the above mild symptoms, plus:
Severe Hypoglycemia * * * Give glucagon & CALL 911 ASAP! * * *
Any of the above mild or moderate symptoms, plus:
Severe hypoglycemia requires injection of glucagon to save the person's life!
Hypoglycemia can also happen while you are sleeping. You might:
If you are diagnosed with hypoglycemia, your doctor will try to find the cause by using laboratory tests to measure blood glucose, insulin, and other chemicals that play a part in the body's use of energy.
Note: In reactive hypoglycemia, symptoms appear within 4 hours after you eat a meal.
A blood glucose level of less than 70 mg/dL at the time of symptoms and relief after eating will confirm the diagnosis. Because a personal blood glucose monitor cannot be used to diagnose reactive hypoglycemia you need to see your doctor if you feel you might be suffering from non-diabetes related hypoglycemia. To diagnose reactive hypoglycemia, your doctor may:
Note: The oral glucose tolerance test is no longer used to diagnose hypoglycemia; experts now know that the test can actually trigger hypoglycemic symptoms.
Causes and Treatment of Reactive Hypoglycemia
The causes of most cases of reactive hypoglycemia are still open to debate. Some researchers suggest that certain people may be more sensitive to the body's normal release of the hormone epinephrine, which causes many of the symptoms of hypoglycemia. Others believe that deficiencies in glucagon secretion might lead to hypoglycemia.
A few causes of reactive hypoglycemia are certain, but they are uncommon. Gastric (stomach) surgery, for instance, can cause hypoglycemia because of the rapid passage of food into the small intestine. Also, rare enzyme deficiencies diagnosed early in life, such as hereditary fructose intolerance, may cause reactive hypoglycemia.
To relieve reactive hypoglycemia, some health professionals recommend taking the following steps:
Your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian for personalized meal planning advice. Although some health professionals recommend a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates, studies have not proven the effectiveness of this kind of diet for reactive hypoglycemia.
Fasting hypoglycemia is diagnosed from a blood sample that shows a blood glucose level of less than 50 mg/dL after an overnight fast, between meals, or after exercise.
Causes and Treatment of Fasting Hypoglycemia
Causes include certain medications, alcohol, critical illnesses, hormonal deficiencies, some kinds of tumors, and certain conditions occurring in infancy and childhood.
Medications, including some used to treat diabetes, are the most common cause of hypoglycemia. Other medications that can cause hypoglycemia include
If using any of these medications causes your blood glucose to drop, your doctor may advise you to stop using the drug or change the dosage.
Other Causes of Fasting Hypoglycemia
Conditions Occurring in Infancy and Childhood
Children rarely develop hypoglycemia. If they do, causes may include
More Information About Hypoglycemia
People with diabetes
Important Medical Disclaimer
All material found on this site is for general information purposes. You need to seek out the advice of a medical doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any medical concern or problem. Please do not attempt to self-diagnose or treat any medical problem on your own!
Page Updated 03/10/2006