WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HYPOGLYCEMIA?
Our brain depends on glucose in order to operate and work well. We take in glucose by eating carbohydrate foods that are processed into glucose, which then travels into our bloodstream. When our body uses up the glucose in our blood, many different symptoms will start to show as time passes if we do not replenish that glucose by eating or drinking more carbohydrates.
Many of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are directly related to brain function. As the brain gets deprived of its primary energy source, we may start to feel tired, light-headed and dizzy or disoriented and confused. Symptoms can quickly escalate, becoming serious or even life-threatening.
Symptoms often come on suddenly, can change over time, and can look different from person to person. There are people who do not sense symptoms at all, some people experience a few mild symptoms, while others may have moderate to severe.1
Severe hypoglycemia is very serious and happens when blood glucose levels drop so low that a person cannot treat themselves without assistance from another person—due to disorientation, confusion, or unconsciousness.2 Serious symptoms may include; loss of consciousness, seizure,3 coma, or death. People who are experiencing severe hypoglycemia may appear drunk with slurred speech or clumsy movements.4
HYPOGLYCEMIA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS;
MILD TO MODERATE:
- Fatigue—feeling sleepy or tired
- Pale skin
- Craving sweets
- Sweating—hot and or cold flashes
- Clamminess, cold hands and feet
- Shaky or jittery
- Dizzy or lightheaded
- Weak, faint
- Trouble concentrating or focusing, forgetful
- Confused and disoriented
- Irritable, nervous, anxious, impatient
- Exhaustion, drained
- Uncoordinated, not balanced
- Blurred vision
- Argumentative, combative, grumpy
- Changed behavior or personality
- Fast or irregular heartbeat—palpatations
- Tingling sensation in lips or tongue
- Unable to eat or drink—care for self
- Seizures or convulsions
- Loss of consciousness
It is possible to experience symptoms while sleeping. It’s usually a good idea to eat a snack 30 minutes to an hour before going to sleep to help keep your sugar levels balanced.
NIGHTTIME SYMPTOMS MAY INCLUDE:
- Nightmares, crying out
- Severe sweating, enough to dampen night clothes or sheets
- Tired, irritable, confusion upon waking1,5
Sometimes we can get so accustomed to our routines or too focused on what’s going on in our personal lives that we forget to look outward and consider how we affect others.
If you have hypoglycemia, it’s important to explain to your family members what hypoglycemia is. Educate them about the condition and what it means for your life. Talk about what your signs and symptoms are and how they might look to an observer. Help them to recognize your symptoms, especially on the days when you’re not paying enough attention and you’re pushing yourself harder than usual on that outdoor project, exercise program, business deal, etc.
Share with friends and even co-workers. The people who are around you should know how serious hypoglycemia can be and have an idea of what to do if you’re ever in need. Treating hypoglycemia is fairly simple, and overall, knowledge can be power. People want to know what to do, especially if they can help. Don’t put yourself at risk by refusing to share with others about this condition.
Learn your body. Pay attention to how you’re feeling throughout the day as you do different tasks. Check your blood glucose levels and learn what signs and symptoms your body tends to show as it indicates something is wrong. The more in-tune you are with your body, the faster you can eat something to keep your sugar levels balanced, which will give you the most energy and help you have a more efficient day with less frustration.
Always keep a snack or sugary candies with you at all times. If you start to sense your blood sugar dropping fast, eat something sugary. Check your sugar levels as soon as you can and eat a carbohydrate to balance out your levels.
When we’re not paying attention to our bodies, it’s easy to miss the early signs and it doesn’t take long to have an episode and crash. Many people have children or family members that they care for, make sure to first take care of yourself so you can better care for them. If we neglect our own bodies then we’re not helping anyone.
Hypoglycemia can be really scary and dangerous. The best thing to do is understand the condition, recognize the symptoms, know how to manage and treat it, and educate friends and family in case you ever need their help.
Published April 14, 2017
Please feel free to share by leaving a comment below!
What are your thoughts or questions about low blood sugar? Have you ever experienced symptoms of hypoglycemia or know someone who has? What was it like for you or that person?
1. Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/low-blood-glucose-hypoglycemia. Published August 2016. Accessed February 16, 2017.
2. Nancy Klobassa Davidson, RN; Peggy Moreland, RN, CDE. Living with diabetes blog: Understanding hypoglycemia unawareness. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-blog/hypoglycemia-unawareness/bgp-20056549. Published August 10, 2011. Accessed March 10, 2017.
3. Nancy Klobassa Davidson, RN; Peggy Moreland, RN, CDE. Living with diabetes blog: Avoiding hypoglycemia unawareness. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/expert-blog/hypoglycemia-unawareness/bgp-20056569. Published August 19, 2011. Accessed March 10, 2017.
4. Mayo Clinic Staff. Diseases and Conditions: Hypoglycemia. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypoglycemia/basics/definition/CON-20021103?p=1. Published January 20, 2015. Accessed February 16, 2017.
5. Ruggiero, Roberta. FAQs: What is Hypoglycemia?. The Hypoglycemia Support Foundation, Inc. HSF. http://hypoglycemia.org/about-hsf/faq/. Published 2016. Accessed February 23, 2017.