What is Hypoglycemia?

by Rebekah Scott
(last updated May 3, 2010)

Hypoglycemia is a medical condition that occurs when blood sugar levels fall below the normal range that is considered to be healthy. Hypoglycemia is usually associated with those suffering from either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, but people without diabetes can also experience some of the symptoms of this condition. Hypoglycemia can be caused by a few factors. An increased level of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, is usually the number one the cause of Hypoglycemia. Insulin levels may increase due to problems with the pancreas, the organ the produces insulin, or, in very rare cases, by unique tumors that produce. In patients with diabetes Hypoglycemia can be caused if an incorrect dose of insulin is taken, or if a diabetic doesn't eat regular meals to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Beyond these causes, Hypoglycemia can occur after periods of prolonged fasting, extensive exercise, consumption of too much alcohol. Though sugar usually gets a bad rap as far as healthy eating habits are concerned, a healthy amount of sugar in nutritious foods is vital to keeping the body fueled and functioning well. The symptoms of Hypoglycemia span from mild to severe. Lightheadedness, nausea, rapid heart rate, blurred vision, and general agitation are typical in the least dangerous end of this spectrum. On the more serious end, seizures and a loss of consciousness may occur. When trying to diagnose Hypoglycemia, doctors take a blood sample and test blood sugar levels. They may also inquire about family history and any medications that are currently being taken. If blood sugar levels are low, a doctor may recommend a change in diet and/or medication, or that a patient always carries with them some kind of snack or drink with sugar in it. Fruit juice, string cheese, or peanut butter and crackers are all portable nutritious options. In some cases, a doctor may recommend that special glucose tablets be taken and kept on hand at all times. It is crucial to prepare snacks ahead of time so that you are never caught without something to eat or drink if you start feeling the beginning symptoms of a hypoglycemic episode. Vigilance and preparedness are the best ways to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Beyond diagnosing the problem and offering preliminary advice, there is only so much a doctor can dos. It is up to patients to watch what and how often they eat, and to recognize and address symptoms of Hypoglycemia as they occur.

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