Hypoglycemia and blood sugar levels
Blood sugar levels are constantly changing, which is why it is important to monitor
them often. When blood sugar levels are below 70 mg/dL, they are considered too
low and may be harmful. This condition is called hypoglycemia.
People with diabetes may get hypoglycemia by:
- Taking too much insulin or diabetes medicine
- Not eating enough food
- Being very physically active without eating enough
When people with diabetes sleep, their blood sugar levels may go down. This may
lead to nighttime, or nocturnal, hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia may include:
- Feeling anxious or confused
- Cold sweats
- Shaking or convulsions
- Tingling or numbness
Hypoglycemia can also become more serious, and may lead to fainting, seizures, or
It is better to prevent low blood sugar in the first place than to treat it. Checking
blood sugar levels often, including during exercise, can help people with diabetes
address blood sugar levels.
Having snacks available at all times is also important for controlling blood sugar
levels. A snack at bedtime may help prevent nighttime hypoglycemia.
When someone with diabetes has hypoglycemia, it should be treated right away.
People with diabetes who have hypoglycemia should eat something that has about 15
grams of carbohydrates. These may be:
- 3 glucose tablets
- Sugar, honey, or syrup (1 tbsp)
- 5 or 6 hard candies
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) of fruit juice or regular, non-diet soda
Wait about 15 minutes to see how you feel before eating any more. Next, test your
blood glucose again. If it's still low, take another 15 grams of carbohydrates.
Test again 15 minutes later. Eating too much sugar can end up raising blood sugar
levels too high. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for treating low
blood sugar. Talk to your healthcare provider if low blood sugar is a problem for
Severe low blood sugar can cause unconsciousness (passing out), seizures, and death.
People with severe hypoglycemia may be treated with glucagon injections, or glucose
at a hospital. If your loved one has severe hypoglycemia,
seek immediate help. You should also talk to your doctor about
getting an emergency glucagon kit.
You may also want to consider how low blood sugar can affect a loved one emotionally.
Take some time to find out about how factors such as having low or high blood sugar
may affect his or her behavior, activity level, or appetite.