Recognizing & Preparing for Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

Lyndsay Riffe is a certified diabetes educator who also has type 1 diabetes and says, “There are so many variables that affect blood glucose levels, some that are in our control and some that are not. However, knowing the cause of low blood glucose levels and having a deeper understanding of these variables can set one up for less hypoglycemia.”

Can you recognize symptoms of low blood sugar?

Testing blood sugar is the most effective way to prevent hypoglycemia. “Hypoglycemia can occur due to medications, which might be prescribed to help control blood sugar levels, or by taking too much insulin,” says Susan Weiner, RD MS CDE CDN. “Other reasons for hypoglycemia include: taking insulin and not eating enough carbohydrates or calories, increased or unexpected physical activity, severe liver or kidney disease, gastric bypass surgery or alcoholism. As a CDE, I work closely with my patients and their physician to determine how often blood glucose testing is necessary. When someone if first diagnosed with diabetes, it is very important to test more frequently. I usually suggest testing first thing in the morning (fasting), 2 hours post a meal, and before bed. If morning blood sugars are not within target range, we might suggest occasionally testing at 3 AM.”

Symptoms of low blood sugar

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Feeling shaky
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Anxious and/or mental confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue and/or insomnia
  • Headaches and/or Heart palpitations

“Sometimes people experience changes in mood such as depression, temper tantrums, and uncontrollable crying or emotional swings. Many of my patients report craving carbs (refined or simple sugars), when they experience low blood sugars. Extreme hypoglycemia can result in fainting, coma or even death,” adds Weiner.

Preventing and preparing for the symptoms of low blood sugar

Here are nine ways to work on both preventing and preparing for symptoms, should the occur:

  1. Test often. Testing regularly can help you stay ahead of possible lows.
  2. Keep regular appointments with your physician. Keep a list of your medications to discuss with your doctor to determine if your dosage or timing of medications or insulin needs to be adjusted. Provide your doctor with your blood sugar record for evaluation.
  3. See a certified diabetes educator/registered dietitian. Schedule an appointment with a registere