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What is Hypoglycemia? Print E-mail
Written by Phillip LaVeque   
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Hypoglycemia is the condition that occurs when blood sugar, or glucose, levels drop below normal.

What is going on in the body?
Blood sugar levels drop when people don't eat for a long time, or when they have complications of diabetes and other diseases. The blood glucose level is affected by the hormones insulin and glucagon. An imbalance of these hormones can cause blood sugar levels to fall too low. When the blood sugar falls too low, hypoglycemia develops.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Hypoglycemia usually occurs in people with diabetes. When people have diabetes, the pancreas does not make enough insulin or the insulin made is not effective. Blood sugar rises and builds up in the blood. People with diabetes take insulin or oral medications to keep their blood sugar down. If a person with diabetes takes too much medication, misses meals, or doesn't eat enough food, the person can become hypoglycemic.

Rarely, hypoglycemia can occur in people who do not have diabetes. Hypoglycemia can occur in early pregnancy. People can also become hypoglycemic if they fast for a long time or exercise for an extended period. People taking certain medications, such as beta-blockers or aspirin, may become hypoglycemic more easily. Sometimes people who are alcoholics or binge drinkers can become hypoglycemic.

What are the treatments for the condition?
The treatment for hypoglycemia is control of blood sugar levels. People with diabetes learn the early warning symptoms and quickly eat or drink a sugary substance. The same treatment works for people without diabetes who have hypoglycemia. Usually all people with hypoglycemia are advised to follow a healthy eating plan with a variety of foods eaten at regular intervals throughout the day.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Too much sugar can cause the level of blood sugar to go too high. This is rarely a problem, except in people with severe diabetes.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

People begin to feel better very quickly after they bring up their blood sugar to normal ranges. The uncomfortable physical symptoms soon disappear after eating or drinking something with sugar.

How is the condition monitored?
People who become hypoglycemic easily, whether they have diabetes or not, learn to monitor their symptoms. The best way to avoid the uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, symptoms of hypoglycemia is to prevent the problem in the first place. People with diabetes who are prone to low blood sugar learn to monitor levels frequently to keep blood sugar within normal ranges.

 

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