Hypoglycemia: Symptoms & Causes

What is hypoglycemia?
Who is at risk with Hypoglycemia?
Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia
Causes Of Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia during pregnancy
Postprandial Hypoglycemia
Ketotic Hypoglycemia


What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a condition that happens when the blood sugar (glucose) is very low. When blood sugar levels shoots up, our pancreas responds by releasing insulin to boost the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. Insulin lowers the amount of glucose in our blood by telling the cells in the body to use the glucose as fuel. Insulin is a very crucial hormone that regulates the amount of sugar or glucose in your bloodstream. It helps cells of our body absorb glucose from the bloodstream which then will be used for energy or stored as glycogen in the liver. Basically, the release of this kind of hormone is equivalent with the amount of sugar or glucose in the bloodstream.

Who is at risk with Hypoglycemia?

All individuals who breathe and live needs to be alarmed about hypoglycemia. Energy is created from glucose and glucose is formed from our food. If we are not eating properly, we are not producing efficient energy.

Then we begin storing fat, and we set the point for illness and disease. Then, any time one of our basic needs gets out of balance, the body is under stress and cannot function properly.

It’s very critical that you know the early signs which will allow you to cure your low blood glucose levels fast to bring it back within the normal range. This can save your life or even your loved ones.

Symptoms Of Hypoglycemia

The signs for this condition can be divided into three categories: Adrenergic, glucagon and Neuroglycopenic manifestations.

  • Adrenergic manifestations, which include shakiness, anxiety, sweatiness, cold warm spurs, numbness and feelings of pins and needles, dilated pupils, and heart palpitation.
  • Glucagon manifestations are generally caused by the fall of sugar levels and include headaches, hunger, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pains.
  • The more evident Neuroglycopenic signs are manifested by cognitive and neurological signs. Those include but are limited to impaired judgment, lack of focus, fatigue, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness and in severe cases short term memory loss. Patients might also experience spurred speech and difficulty speaking, as well as automatism, paralysis, blurred or double visions. They will also manifest mood changes, such as unjustified depression and crying and exaggerated concerns over benign issues.

Not all patients suffering from hypoglycemia will experience all of those symptoms. In fact, the signs of hypoglycemia will vary on a wide scale and from one patient to another. While symptoms from all three categories might occur, they are hardly apparent in any particular order or system. Usually patients will suffer from a combination of those signs and this will vary greatly depending on the severity of the condition, the triggering cause, the age and health condition of the patient and many other factors.

Be careful that hypoglycemia can affect children and newborns and make sure to pay attention to the signs especially if you have any concerns that your child might be susceptible to it. In those cases, the condition is usually mild and easily treatable.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

• Blurry vision
• Faster heart beat rate
• Dizziness
• Temporary loss of consciousness
• Feeling cranky or acting aggressive
• Feeling nervous
• Headache
• Feeling of Hunger
• Trembling or Shaking
• Sweating
• Tingling or numbness of the skin
• Tiredness or weakness
• Trouble sleeping
• Unclear thinking

Of course these hypoglycemia symptoms can be related to other conditions which is why it’s good to be tested by your doctor if you suspect you have low blood sugar, for an accurate diagnosis.  You might also keep a symptom diary, noting when you get certain symptoms and their severity.  Never ignore the symptoms of hypoglycemia especially if they’re severe and if they occur repeatedly.  If left untreated, this condition could lead to seizure, passing out, or coma.

The best way to treat low blood sugar and any sudden onset of symptoms is with carbohydrates or sugar, which will level the blood glucose in the body.  You don’t want to use too much sugar or too many carbohydrates, but keep treatment to about 15 grams of simple carbs.  These may include any one of the following:

  • A small handful of raisins
  • 1/2 cup of regular, sugared soda
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey
  • 8 ounces of milk

You might also have a small amount of sugared candy; read the package label to determine how much would equal 15 grams of simple carbs.

Using Glucagon

Glucagon is actually a hormone that stimulates the liver to release glucose that is stored in the body when your blood sugar becomes low.  You can purchase glucagon kits for injections; these are typically used by those who have diabetes and who have a reaction to their insulin.  It can also be used for those with hypoglycemia, but you need to talk to your doctor about its use and if it’s the appropriate treatment for you.

Emergency Treatment

If you have low blood sugar and especially if your case is severe, you want to alert your family members, friends, and coworkers to your condition and to typical symptoms, along with treatment options.  They should be told to call emergency services if you pass out or have a seizure.  If you keep a glucagon kit, tell them where it is so that emergency personnel can be alerted.  You might also keep small snacks with you and notify those around you that you may need to eat to offset your hypoglycemia even if at odd times.   Notify them that they should not try to force feed you if you pass out as this can be a choking hazard, but should simply notify emergency services.

Other Treatment Considerations

Low blood sugar often occurs when a person has not eaten in several hours.  Eating causes the blood sugar levels to spike, and when the stomach is empty, that blood sugar level dips.  If you have low blood sugar levels, it can dip drastically since you are already producing a lower amount than normal.  One good way to treat hypoglycemia is to eat small meals every two hours or so, and to include protein with every meal as protein helps to regulate blood sugar.  Your small meals might include a handful of peanuts, some peanut butter on crackers, a few pieces of rolled lunch meat, a few ounces of cheese, or a container of yogurt.  These have protein and are small enough that they won’t interfere with your overall eating plan.

Keep your other meals throughout the day modest as well so you don’t gain weight.  You might also want to have some protein before you go to bed and be prepared to eat more protein as soon as you wake up, as going without food for eight hours while you sleep can cause blood glucose levels to spike.  Never skip breakfast when you have hypoglycemia as this can cause your symptoms to appear during the morning hours.

Avoid eating sugary foods when you have low blood sugar as this too causes the blood sugar levels to spike and then dip.  This includes what you drink, as you want to avoid sugared soda, sweetened tea, lemonade, and beverages such as these.

Be sure you go for regular checkups and blood glucose tests so your doctor can monitor your sugar levels.  He or she may also be able to offer medications and personalized suggestions for maintaining your glucose and protecting your health.

Causes Of Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is a medical condition that involves the body not having adequate quantities of sugar or glucose. Hypoglycemia is also known as low blood sugar. There are several causes of hypoglycemia, some of which directly trigger the condition while some have indirect contributions. In here, we shall look at the direct causes of hypoglycemia.

One of the most common causes of hypoglycemia is an insulin overdose. When the insulin present in the body reaches alarming levels that is not healthy for the body, the enormous amounts of insulin leads to excessive use of glucose available in the body. Insulin is known to reduce the quantum of sugar in the blood which is also why it is the ideal treatment to manage and regulate diabetes. If there is an overdose of insulin then blood sugar levels can fall drastically leading to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.

Insulin overdose is not always caused by the insulin injections or due to using hypoglycemic agents like sulfonylureas. The body can naturally produce excess amount of insulin. There are certain types of tumors, especially those developing in the pancreas which can increase the production of insulin in the body. As a direct consequence, the glucose levels in the blood and in the body would fall. Besides, many of such tumors can also prevent the storing of sugar or glucose and can also limit the body’s capability of releasing sugar to the blood in a timely manner. All such factors are causes of hypoglycemia.

Nutritional deficiency is also among the very common causes of hypoglycemia. Whenever the body is in dearth of adequate glucose and associated nutrients, there may be a fall in blood sugar levels. Excessive consumption of certain minerals and vitamins that lead to nutritional imbalance can also reduce the level of glucose in the body. Usually, people who are taking insulin injections or have a natural tendency to produce more insulin than necessary would need to eat regularly and supply the body with adequate glucose and other nutrients. Not doing so would cause hypoglycemia. People who exercise a lot and do not consume enough food thus creating a dearth of calories (energy) in the body can also develop hypoglycemia.

Among the other direct causes of hypoglycemia are diseases associated with the adrenalin and pituitary glands. Ailments affecting these glands can cause a sudden or a gradual fall in blood sugar levels.

When you are pregnant, you need to take extra precaution in order to keep both you and the baby safe. Your hormones are raging and you get strong cravings to eat whatever comes to mind. You have more leeway to eat more because you are eating for two; however, you still need to be careful because many women develop hypoglycemia in pregnancy.

Hypoglycemia during pregnancy

Hypoglycemia during pregnancy is a medical condition where you have an abnormal low sugar level in your blood. There are some cases that it is caused by the pancreas because it has produced too much insulin. Sugar is changed into energy by the insulin hormone. The most common cause of hypoglycemia in pregnancy is caused by the pregnancy, poor diet or stress. It can also be caused by tumors, poor pancreas function, or liver dysfunction.

If you develop hypoglycemia during pregnancy, you will be warned to avoid foods that contain high glucose levels. Your doctor will check the health of you and your baby during your monthly check ups. If you are diagnosed with hypoglycemia, your Obstetrician w ill let you know what you should eat so that you can lower your blood glucose levels to normal levels. It is very critical that you keep your blood glucose levels in check during your first trimester because the baby is growing and developing at a rapid pace.

If your doctor lets you know that you have developed hypoglycemia in pregnancy, you need to begin to treat it immediately. If you have any insulin reactions, it is important that you let your Obstetrician know right away so that they can adjust your treatment. The insulin reactions vary in each individual but they include sweating, shakiness, dizziness, a tingling sensation or disorientation. It is important, if you need insulin injections, you should always have some type of sugar candy with you at all times.

Even if you have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia in pregnancy, you can still have a smooth pregnancy. You will need to follow a specific hypoglycemia diet plan. It is suggested to you meet with a dietician or nutritionist to determine the appropriate sugar level that you should maintain. You will also need to consistently monitor your blood glucose levels. You Obstetrician will also, most likely, suggest that you add some physical activity to your daily routine. Do not add exercise without first speaking with your doctor. Staying healthy during your pregnancy will benefit both your baby and you.

Postprandial Hypoglycemia

Postprandial hypoglycemia, sometimes referred to as reactive hypoglycemia, often occurs in people that have undergone invasive procedures that alter the digestive system. One example of this type of invasive digestive system procedure is gastric bypass surgery. After eating meals, people with postprandial hypoglycemia have a drop in their level of blood glucose. The treatment of postprandial hypoglycemia depends on how severe the symptoms are. The main objective of the treatment is to restore the person’s blood glucose levels to normal levels.

The insulin that is produced after a meal soars causing way to too much of the insulin hormone to be released into the bloodstream. The cells in the body are then thrown into overdrive trying to deplete the amount of blood sugar when the glucose is dispersed. Since the liver is not able to compensate for the glucose depletion, the insulin continues to flood into the system. The overabundance of insulin, in a system that does not have glucose for the insulin hormone to regulate, results in the body being left in a hypoglycemic state.

The majority of postprandial hypoglycemia cases occur when the digestive function was disrupted from surgery. Some people, however, develop it in response to glucose tolerance impairment or if they have been over medicated for a diabetic condition that already exists. If a hypoglycemic treatment is inappropriately administered, a postprandial hypoglycemic episode may occur.

The good news is that postprandial hypoglycemia is usually easy to diagnose because the drop in the blood sugar level is usually obvious. It is highly suggested that patients with postprandial hypoglycemia keep a record of any hypoglycemia symptoms that they experience throughout the days, especially because it is highly unlikely that an episode will occur at the doctor’s office. This will also serve as a great reference that patients can go over with the doctor to track your progress and a reminder of anything that should be discussed with the doctor. The doctor will most likely administer regular blood tests to evaluate blood glucose levels over a period of time.

Man testing with glucometer

The symptoms that appear in patients with postprandial hypoglycemia are almost identical to the symptoms with the other forms of hypoglycemia. These include physical weakness, feelings of hunger and lethargy. These patients may also have symptoms including elevated heart rate, tremors and sweating. When the body is in the process of digesting foods it is common for postprandial hypoglycemia patients to suddenly experience anxiety, blurred vision and appear pale. This is why it is extremely important to maintain a strict hypoglycemic diet.

Ketotic Hypoglycemia

Ketotic Hypoglycemia is a condition that in broader terms refers to the low blood sugar accompanied with ketotis, however, it is more specifically used to describe a condition that affects young children in the form of regular episodes of low blood sugar and ketosis at the same time. Ketosis is basically an increase in the ketone levels in the body which are usually used for producing energy. Ketone levels usually are not high in the body and their increase is considered an anomaly that often occurs in diabetics and as a result of the depletion of glyceton levels from the liver. Often referred to as the mysterious disease, the causes of ketotic hypoglycemia are hardly known in the medical community.

It often occurs in children under the age of four years. Usually, the condition is manifested in the morning when a child wakes up after they had not had anything to eat for a period that is longer than what they have been used to.The symptoms are either neurologic manifestations and include lethargy, fatigue and malaise. In severe cases, the condition can lead to unresponsiveness and seizures. Other symptoms include but are not limited to abdominal pain, and nausea and could lead in some extreme cases to vomiting.

While those conditions can be terrifying for parents, as they learn about the issue and notice the recurrent symptoms they will be able to easily identify a case of ketotic hypoglycemia as they see it. It is important to note that this condition is not necessarily very severe and in often cases giving the child some carbohydrates and allowing for some sleep time should restore the situation. In more severe cases, it important to check with a doctor to make sure that the children are not suffering from more serious problems.

Usually, parents will check with a pediatric or a family doctor to properly make a diagnosis. Most commonly, they diagnose the condition by measuring the levels of insulin produced by the body, hormone growth and lactic acid levels during the episode of hypoglycemia. Once properly diagnosed the conditions can be treated by simple procedures such as increasing the amount of carbohydrates that the child eats and assigning a proper dieting program if the child is under weight. With those precautionary measures taken properly, ketotic hypoglycemia becomes much easier to control and manage and hence its occurrence become less severe and frequent.