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The Lowdown on Handling Low Blood Sugar

The Lowdown on Handling Low Blood Sugar

How to recognize low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) from diabetes and take action

hypoglycemia less than 70mg

For most people, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is when the amount of sugar in your blood drops to 70 mg/dL or lower. You should ask your diabetes care teamDiabetes care teamYour diabetes care team may include: a primary care doctor, a diabetes and hormone doctor (endocrinologist), a registered nurse, a diabetes educator, a dietician, a heart doctor (cardiologist), a foot doctor (podiatrist), an eye doctor (ophthalmologist/optometrist), a kidney doctor (nephrologist), a dentist, a pharmacist, and a mental health professional. what level of blood sugar is too low for you. Low blood sugar is something that you need to be prepared to treat, so it’s important to know the signs.

What causes low blood sugar?

diabetes prescription sliced apple diabetes pill
  • Taking certain medicines and eating too few carbohydratesCarbohydrateCarbohydrates are the main kinds of food that raise blood sugar levels. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (sugar), and then uses this sugar as a source of energy for your cells.

    There are 3 main types of carbohydrates in food: starches (complex carbohydrates), sugars (simple carbohydrates), and fiber. Fiber is the part of plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, that you can’t digest.
  • Skipping or delaying meals
  • Taking too much insulinInsulinA hormone made by the beta cells in the pancreas that helps sugar move from the blood into the cells. Insulin is also an injectable medicine that is used to treat diabetes by controlling the level of sugar in the blood. or diabetes medication (ask your diabetes care team if this applies to you)
  • Activity levels higher than usual
  • Drinking alcohol without eating enough food


Recognize low blood sugar symptoms early and take action

Low blood sugar can happen suddenly and can occur at any time. In most cases, you will notice the signs and symptoms. It’s important to learn to recognize them early, so something can be done before they get worse.

Physical symptoms

The symptoms of low blood sugar may include:

  • Feeling clumsy or lack of control over simple movements
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Hunger
  • Nausea
  • Seizure (fits)
  • Shakiness
  • Sleepiness
  • Sweating
  • Tingling around the mouth (in the lips or tongue)
  • Weakness

Emotional symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Personality change (eg, crying for no reason)
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Nervousness
  • Nightmares or crying out during sleep
What to do about low blood sugar

Blood sugar should be checked right away if there are any symptoms. If it is low, or if it seems like it might be, follow the “Rule of 15.”

The “Rule of 15” to treat low blood sugar

rule 15 low blood sugar table

Once your blood sugar returns to normal, help keep it that way by eating a meal or snack, if your next planned meal is more than an hour or 2 away.

What does “15 grams of carbohydrate” look like?

15 grams of carbs table

Always check with your doctor about how to treat your low blood sugar. Tell him or her if it often happens. You may need to work together to change your diabetes care plan.

Download Cornerstones4Care’s Checking Your Blood Sugar

Nighttime low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
nighttime moon blood sugar

The signs of nighttime low blood sugar include:

  • Sweating: Waking up with damp clothes/sheets
  • Headache: Waking up with a headache and/or feeling tired, irritable, or confused
  • Disturbed sleep: Restless sleep or having nightmares

You may also wake up with a higher blood sugar reading because your body is bouncing back from an overnight low.

running shoes menu and wine

Some causes of nighttime low blood sugar:

  • Too much activity: Having a very busy day, or being active close to bedtime can decrease blood sugar overnight. For some people, even exercising in the afternoon can lead to nighttime low blood sugar
  • Drinking alcohol in the evening: Drinking alcohol, especially in excess, can put you at risk of a lower blood sugar level overnight. Especially if you were drinking on an empty stomach. This is because the liver is busy clearing the alcohol from the blood, instead of making and releasing sugar. If you have type 1 diabetes, drinking alcohol, especially in excess, is generally not recommended
  • A late dinner or bedtime: Even if blood sugar is normal before going to bed, having a late dinner (a couple of hours before bed) can cause blood sugar to drop later during the night. You may want to check your blood sugar during the night to see if your results reflect your food intake, physical activity, and insulin doses from the previous day and evening

Avoiding nighttime low blood sugar can mean:

  • Not taking too much rapid-acting insulin to correct high blood sugar at bedtime or during the night. It can bring on nighttime low blood sugar. For many people, each unit of rapid-acting insulin can lower blood sugar more at night than during the day
  • Evaluating potential risks: Think about all of the causes of nighttime hypoglycemia. If you feel you or the person you care for is at risk, a snack before bed may help, especially if blood sugar levels are already dropping at this time
  • Trying an insulin pump: Many people who take insulin are able to reduce their risk of nighttime lows by switching to an insulin pump. If you (or your loved one) are having problems with nighttime low blood sugar and are already using a pump, talk to a doctor about how to adjust the pump’s basalBasal insulinA type of injected insulin that is absorbed slowly and starts to lower blood sugar within 4 to 6 hours after injection. Its strongest effect is 10 to 18 hours after injection depending on the product. This gives the body a low level of insulin to manage blood sugar between meals and overnight. rate to avoid hypoglycemia at night

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