There are 23.1 million people in the United States who have been diagnosed with diabetes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even worse—7.2 million people are living with the disease but don’t know that they have it.
The effect that low blood sugar can have on those with diabetes is alarming, to say the least, so it’s important to learn how to manage yours—even if you’re not diabetic.
Before learning about its effects, it’s helpful to know exactly what blood sugar is.
What is Blood Sugar?
When we eat foods that contain sugar, glucose enters our body, where it is also formed and stored.
Our cells rely on glucose as the main source of energy as it’s delivered through our bloodstream. Even our brains rely on glucose to function.
The amount of glucose that you have in your blood is referred to as a blood glucose level, also known as a blood sugar level.
If blood glucose levels fall too low, it is called hypoglycemia. If your blood sugar level falls too far, it can cause major medical issues that need to be addressed immediately.
How Does Low Blood Sugar Affect Diabetics?
For anyone with diabetes, it is especially important to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Because most diabetics take medication to manage the disease, they are more prone to having low blood sugar levels.
In order to help their bodies use the sugar in their blood, many take insulin.
Insulin works to remove the sugar from the blood and place it in the body’s cells, which keeps the blood sugar within normal levels.
However, many diabetics struggle to know exactly how much insulin to take, which can cause their blood sugar levels to drop suddenly.
High blood sugar levels are also dangerous for diabetics, so it’s especially important for anyone with the disease to maintain a healthy diet and work out regularly.
What Causes Low Blood Sugar?
If you are not eating enough throughout the day or completely skipping meals and snacks, your blood sugar levels will inevitably drop.
It’s also important to fuel yourself properly when you’re working out for a longer time or harder than usual to keep your levels from falling.
Insulin can also be a cause of low blood sugar if you’re getting too much or not timing the doses of the medication properly with meals, snacks and exercise.
How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar
To make sure that your blood sugar stays at a healthy level, you should talk with your doctor about what your routine should look like—including the details of your meal plan, how often you should test your blood sugar, your exercise regimen and any other specifics.
- Eat regularly.
- Follow your meal plan by eating three nutritionally dense meals throughout the day and by carrying between-meal snacks with you in case you need them.
- When you exercise, try to wait at least 30 minutes after your last meal, and always check your blood sugar before starting.
- Check insulin dosage.
- Before giving yourself a dose of insulin, double check the amount that you are about to take.
- Drink in moderation.
- Moderate your use of alcohol and monitor your blood sugar anytime you’ve been drinking.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet.
- Wearing a medical identification bracelet noting that you have diabetes can help in case your levels drop unexpectedly.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar
Signs and symptoms of low blood sugar tend to kick in when someone’s blood sugar levels dip below 70 milligrams per deciliter.
Although symptoms of low blood sugar can appear different for everyone, the following are common effects:
- Rapid heart beat
- A feeling of hunger
- Seizures or convulsions
- Moodiness, crankiness or irritability
- Sweating or clammy skin
- Pale or gray-color skin
- Drowsiness, weakness or dizziness
- Difficulty walking
- Blurred or double vision
- Loss of consciousness
If you have diabetes, it is important that you remember the signs and symptoms you experience when your blood sugar levels drop so that you can identify them more quickly the next time it happens.
How to Raise Blood Sugar
If you are suffering from low blood sugar as a diabetic , you should immediately eat or drink 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate.
Some great options include 1/2 cup of fruit juice or a soft drink, 1 cup of skim milk, 1 tablespoon of honey, four to six pieces of hard candy, one tube of glucose gel, or three to four glucose tablets.
Once you’ve had something to eat or drink, wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar again.
If your levels still show up as lower than 70 mg/dL, have another serving of the options above. Continue to repeat these steps until your levels normalize.
Because you are susceptible to passing out when you are suffering from low blood sugar, never drive when you have hypoglycemic symptoms.
Instead, pull off the road immediately to check your levels and raise them if needed. It’s important to keep a sugar source in your car at all times just in case.
If you or someone else is suffering from a severe hypoglycemic reaction, it is critical that you call 911 immediately.
If someone is unconscious due to extremely low blood sugar levels, do not try to give the person food or fluids as he or she could choke. Instead, that person will need a glucagon injection—a prescription medication that helps to raise the blood sugar—if available.
CareNow® Urgent Care Can Help
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels, our qualified physicians and nurses at CareNow® are ready to give you a proper diagnosis.
We are open after hours and on weekends, when regular physicians’ offices are typically closed. Walk-in patients are also welcome at all 112 CareNow® locations.
To find the CareNow® closest to you, visit our website.