A Tip from your Community Fire Protection District Paramedics
Every year we run calls for diabetic patients in acute hypoglycemia. In this article we will discuss what hypoglycemia is and how to prevent it. As always, the personal physician is the best source of on going medical care. Always advise your physician of hypoglycemia episodes.
Basics of Hypoglycemia
In general, hypoglycemia has been defined as a blood sugar level less than 80, though some medical centers define it as a value that is less than 60. There may or may not be accompanying symptoms.
Generally, hypoglycemia can be caused by too little food intake when compared to insulin, too much insulin when compared to food intake, exercise beyond normal, medication side effect or non-diabetes-related illness.
Symptoms include: sweating, nausea, confusion, dizziness, hunger and weakness.
Treatment is relatively simple: provide a complex carb with a protein to bring the blood sugar level up. Combining a carb and a protein provides for a fairly rapid upswing in blood sugar (from the carb) and a level of stability of blood sugar (from the protein). This decreases the risk for rebound hypoglycemia, which is often seen in those who utilize simple carbs, alone, to treat low blood sugar.
If hypoglycemia occurs 2 days in a row, or at least 3 times within 1 week, see your doctor, to help trouble-shoot your medication, activity and diet regime.
Symptoms of Hypoglycemia
It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia, in order to treat it quickly. Glucose feeds all of the organs in the body, including the brain. Low blood sugar, for prolonged periods can result in injury to your organs.
"Mild" hypoglycemia is characterized as hypoglycemia that occurs when the person is still able to self-treat. This is in contrast to a "severe" hypoglycemic reaction, in which the person cannot self-treat and needs outside help.
The symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
1) Feeling shaky or nervous
3) Blurred vision, or visual changes,
such as sparks or auras
4) Difficulty concentrating or in doing
tasks which are normally easy for you
6) Pale, clammy skin
7) Slurred speech
8) Rapid pulse
If you experience these symptoms, or just "don’t feel right," the best course of action is to suspect hypoglycemia, check your blood sugar, and then treat it. This is especially true if you are on medication that can lower blood sugar levels.
Keep track of your blood sugars and notify your doctor if you have low blood sugars two days in a row, or three times during one week. They can help you adjust your diet, exercise or medications to stabilize your sugars
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a known complication of diabetes, and it is defined as a blood sugar value below the "normal" range, i.e. less than 80 mg/dl.
As you know, hypoglycemia presents with nausea, dizziness, sweating, cool pale skin, and anxiety. If left untreated, low blood sugar can result in coma and injury to key organs including the brain.
Here are some tips to prevent hypoglycemia:
1) Make sure that meal times are regular, especially if they are timed around your insulin peaks.
2) Do not skip meals when on glucose lowering medication - it is important to eat a regular times to keep your sugar on an even keel.
3) Plan ahead for exercise and have a snack before vigorous exercise.
4) Plan for when you are not going to be able to eat a regular meal, and
keep a meal substitute handy, so that you can stay on your eating routine.
5) Avoid quantities of simple sugars. These cause sudden increases in your sugars, followed by sudden decreases (hypoglycemia).
6) Talk to your doctor about any diet, activity or medication changes, so that he can guide you and monitor your status, to avoid fluctuating sugar levels.
7) Keep a diabetic diary - track blood sugars, exercise, symptoms and food intake, so that you can anticipate when your sugar may become low, and be prepared to treat it.
8) Be prepared and treat at the first sign of low blood sugar, to avoid a more serious drop in your glucose.
When all is said and done, knowing your own body and following your diabetes care plan are the best ways to prevent complications such as hypoglycemia.