Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by abnormally low levels of blood sugar (or glucose) in the body. Glucose is the body’s key source of energy. It aids in the breakdown of foods and its conversion into energy, as well as provides the brain with energy for proper psychological functioning.
When glucose levels become too low, hypoglycemia occurs and you may experience these psychological side effects: confusion, blurred or double vision, abnormal behavior, inability to complete routine tasks, and/or seizures or loss of consciousness (possible, but rare).
In addition to the psychological symptoms, you might also experience physical symptoms including: shakiness, dizziness, heart palpitations, anxiety, increased sweating, night sweats, extreme hunger/hunger pangs, and/or tingling sensation in or around the mouth.
When your brain and body experience these symptoms, your nervous system is just responding to the stress of having low levels of circulating blood sugar. Although these symptoms are common in many other conditions, your doctor can perform a blood test to indicate that the cause is hypoglycemia.
Can hypoglycemia be a non-diabetic related event? Absolutely. Oftentimes a person whom is fasting for a prolonged amount of time may experience hypoglycemia. Someone who engages in an intense exercise session might also experience these symptoms. The other type of non-diabetic incident that could cause hypoglycemia is something called reactive hypoglycemia. This is when a person has eaten a meal consisting of excessively high carbohydrates and/or sugar, has hyperinsulinism, or has recently had surgery in their digestive system.
Like a fever or a rash, hypoglycemia is not a disease itself; it is an indicator of a health problem. Hypoglycemia is commonly associated with diabetes, more specifically the treatment of diabetes. The medications prescribed to treat diabetes are intended to reduce blood sugar levels. If the correct dosage is not prescribed the patient could experience hypoglycemia. Older oral medications commonly prescribed to treat Type 2 diabetes include: Orinase (tolbutamide), Tolimase (tolazamide), Diabinese (chlorpropamide).
Diabetes medications either taken alone or in combination that may induce hypoglycemia include: Glimepiride (amaryl), Nateglinide (starlix), Prandin (replaglinide), and Sitagliptin (Januvia).
And lastly, if you are taking any of the following with your diabetes medication, you could be suffering from hypoglycemia: consumption of alcohol, aspirin, Benemid, Coumadin (warfarin), Zyloprim (allopurinol), or Probalan (probenecid).
If you are exhibiting any of the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, your immediate reaction should be to increase your blood sugar by drinking a sugary drink, like juice or soda, or sucking on a hard candy. Sorry, but chocolate is not a good source of glucose in the event of low blood sugar.
To treat chronic and severe hypoglycemia, your doctor may prescribe insulin injections such as: GlucaGen (glucagon), Dextrose, Insta-Glucose, BD Glucose, Proglycem (diazoxide), or Hyperstat (diaxoxide). These glucose elevating agents work by blocking the release of insulin form the pancreas, which helps to increase blood sugar.
If you have diabetes and are suffering symptoms of hypoglycemia, call your primary care physician to start working on an effective treatment plan that manages your condition. If you do not have diabetes, but suffer the symptoms of hypoglycemia talk to your doctor and seek out alternative, natural solutions to help you cope.