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Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in the blood drops below what the body needs to function normally. Some medicines for diabetes can cause low blood sugar.
Even mild low blood sugar can affect the way you think and respond to things around you. And mild low blood sugar can quickly drop to a more dangerous level.
- Low blood sugar as a side effect of oral diabetes medicines usually causes mild symptoms, such as sweating, shakiness, and hunger.
- Taking too much of your diabetes medicine in one day, not eating enough food, or doing strenuous physical activity can cause your blood sugar level to drop below your target range.
- If your blood sugar is low and you don't eat anything, it may drop to a very low level. Keep some glucose or sucrose tablets or solution or other quick-sugar foods with you at all times. Eat some at the first sign of low blood sugar.
- Test your blood sugar often so you do not have to guess when it is low.
- Teach your friends and co-workers what to do if your blood sugar is very low.
How to deal with low blood sugar
Here are some ways you can manage low blood sugar.
- Keep some glucose or sucrose tablets or solution or quick-sugar foods with you at all times. If you are at home, you most likely will already have something close at hand that contains sugar, such as table sugar or fruit juice. Carry some glucose or sucrose tablets when you are away from home.
- Know the symptoms of low blood sugar, such as sweating, blurred vision, and confusion. Post them where you will see the list often. And carry a copy in your wallet or purse. Be sure that your partner and others concerned know your early symptoms, including the signs of low blood sugar at night.
- Wear medical identification, such as a medical alert bracelet, to let people know that you have diabetes. People will know that you have diabetes and will get help for you if needed.
- Teach others (at work and at home) how to check your blood sugar in case you cannot check it yourself. Keep the instructions for using your blood sugar (glucose) meter with the meter, so the person can review the instructions if needed.
- Teach other people (at work and at home) what to do in case your blood sugar becomes very low. Post information on emergency care for low blood sugar in a convenient place so that those around you can take the proper steps when your blood sugar is very low.
- Take precautions when you are driving and do not drive if your blood sugar is low.
Treat low blood sugar early
Treat low blood sugar levels as soon as you (or someone else) notice the symptoms:
- Check your blood sugar often. If you have had diabetes for many years, you may not have symptoms until your blood sugar is very low.
- Follow the steps for dealing with low blood sugar when you first develop your symptoms of low blood sugar or when your blood sugar level is below your target range (usually below 4.0 mmol/L). Encourage others to tell you if they notice you are developing signs of low blood sugar.
- Keep a record of low blood sugar levels. Write down your symptoms and how you treated your low blood sugar.
- Notify your doctor if you are having frequent low blood sugar problems. Your medicine for diabetes may need to be adjusted or changed.
Other Works Consulted
- American Diabetes Association (2017). Standards of medical care in diabetes—2017. Diabetes Care, 40(Suppl 1): S1–S135.
Current as of: December 20, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Jennifer Hone, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism