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Causes of Low Blood Sugar in Diabetics

written by: weborglodge • edited by: lrohner • updated: 9/11/2010

Ironically, diabetics must be concerned not about blood sugar spikes, but also the causes of low blood sugar which can be life-threatening. As a diabetic, sugar imbalance is a dilemma you face every day.

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    Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

    It is important that diabetics recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar, or diabetic hypoglycemia, in order to avoid its more serious consequences, advises the American Diabetes Association.Regular monitoring of your blood sugar levels can help you avoid dangerous drops in blood sugar.

    When your blood sugar drops, you may feel shaky or dizzy. You may also experience confusion or irritability. Some individuals may also sweat. If you do not take action, your condition may deteriorate to the point where you may experience seizures and lose consciousness.

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    Low Blood Sugar

    Several things can trigger low blood sugar levels. The dosage of your diabetes medication may be off, or you may be taking too much insulin. In effect, the medications or insulin are working too well based on the amount of sugar in your blood.

    Regular meals are an important part of diabetes management. While on diabetes medication, it is important to stabilize your blood sugar levels. If you skip meals or simply do not eat enough, your blood sugar levels may drop abnormally. Insulin works to allow the body to absorb glucose in the bloodstream derived from the foods that we eat. If a diabetic takes the normal amount of insulin but does not consume enough food, hypoglycemia may result.

    Physical activity is another one of the causes of low blood sugar, explains Mayo Clinic. When you exercise, your body first uses the sugar in your blood to fuel your activity. If your workout is especially intense or you don't eat enough, you set up the scenario for low blood sugar. As a diabetic, you must balance sugar intake, calorie burn, and the dosage of your medication.

    Unfortunately, some diabetes medications can also cause your blood sugar levels to drop as one of their side effects, advises the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Medications such as chlorpropamide or glimepiride can cause low blood sugar due to increased insulin production.

    Heavy drinking can also send your blood sugar levels plummeting. Your body breaks down the foods you eat, retrieving the sugar for your blood. Excess sugars are stored in your liver and skeletal muscles. Sugars are released as the demand for energy increases.Drinking alcoholic beverages impairs the liver's ability to release sugar. The sugar that is present in your blood soon depletes during normal body function, causing your blood sugar level to drop. for this reason, diabetics must use caution if drinking.

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    Treating Low Blood Sugar

    The first thing you need to do when you recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar is to quickly raise your blood sugar levels to 70 mg/dL or above. You can do this by consuming a half cup of juice or soda, or taking a glucose tablet. Candy, or even just plain sugar, will help. Sugars in liquid form are assimilated more quickly into your blood stream, so a diabetic suffering from hypoglycemia should first consume a drink, a source of simple sugars quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, followed by a snack containing protein and complex carbohydrates, like a peanut butter sandwich.

    Recognizing the causes of low blood sugar can help you manage your diabetes better. If you have experienced episodes, consult your doctor regarding changes in your medication or management strategy. Prevention is always a better plan of action.

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    References

    American Diabetes Association: Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose) – www.diabetes.org

    Mayo Clinic: Diabetic Hypoglycemia: Causes – www.mayoclinic.com

    National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: Hypoglycemia – diabetes.niddk.nih.gov