Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is when the amount of sugar in your blood drops to 70 mg/dL or lower. It’s important to speak with your health care provider about what is considered low blood sugar for you. Low blood sugar is something that you need to be prepared to treat.
You might get low blood sugar if you:
- Take certain medicines and eat too few carbohydrates (starches) or skip or delay a meal
- Take too much medicine (ask your diabetes care team if this applies to you)
- Are more physically active than usual
Low blood sugar can happen suddenly. But in most cases, you will notice the signs and symptoms.
Recognize low blood sugar early and take action
It is important to identify the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar early so you can do something before it gets worse.
The signs and symptoms of low blood sugar may be less clear after you have had many episodes of low blood sugar. Some signs and symptoms might be so hard to notice that you don’t react to them quickly. Hypoglycemia unawareness, also known as low blood sugar unawareness, is abnormally low blood sugar readings without the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar.
Low blood sugar can make you feel:
- Weak or tired
- Dizzy or shaky
- Nervous or upset
- Like your mood is changing
- Like your head hurts
- Like your heart is beating too fast
- Like your eyesight is blurry
What to do about low blood sugar
Ask your health care provider what level of blood sugar is too low for you. For most people, it is 70 mg/dL or lower. Check your blood sugar right away if you have any symptoms of low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is low, or if you think your blood sugar is low, follow the 'Rule of 15.' This means treat your low blood sugar with 15 grams of carbohydrates (carbs). Wait 15 minutes. Test your blood sugar again, and if it’s still low, have another 15 grams of carbs. Examples of food items you can use include:
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of regular fruit juice (like orange or apple juice) or milk
- 4 ounces (1⁄2 cup) of regular soda pop (not diet)
- 4 glucose tablets
- Candies that you can chew quickly (for example, 7 gummies)
Once your blood sugar returns to normal, eat a meal or snack, if your next planned meal is more than an hour or 2 away. Eating immediately can help keep low blood sugar from coming back. Always check with your health care provider about how to treat your low blood sugar. Tell your health care provider if you often have low blood sugar. You and your health care provider may need to change your diabetes care plan.
To help with low blood sugar, it is generally recommended that you:
- Test your blood sugar even if you only feel a little dizzy
- Carry low blood sugar treatments with you, like glucose tablets
- Check your blood sugar before driving a car
- Check before and after any physical activity
- Call your health care provider if your blood sugar is less than 70 mg/dL more than once a week
If very low blood sugar is untreated, it can cause you to pass out or have a seizure. If you sometimes have sudden low blood sugar that requires help from another person, ask your health care provider if emergency glucagon medicine would be helpful.
- Glucagon is a hormone that can be injected and works quickly to raise your blood sugar
- Glucagon is used to raise your blood sugar when you cannot take sugar by mouth
- Keep the glucagon in a handy place
- Make sure that family members, friends, and coworkers know how to use the kit
- Check the glucagon regularly to make sure it hasn’t expired; if it has, replace it with a new one
If you have low blood sugar and do not know why, speak with your health care provider. You may need to change your diabetes care plan.