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Low blood sugar seizure
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Low blood sugar seizure

Hi,

I'm new to the site and have found it extremely helpful.  I have had Type I diabetes for 10 years now, and have never come across something so useful before.  Keep up the great work^^  


Onto my question.  A couple of weeks ago, I was taken to the hospital by ambulance secondary to a "low blood sugar seizure."  I have no recollection of a four hour period before I went to sleep, and then 3 hours after I was found seizing and taken to the emergency room.  The only information I was given by the doctor there was that this "seizure" was caused by a "prolonged period of hypoglycemia" and I could end up with "permanent brain damage and learning disabilities" if it happened again.  (That statement scared me into checking my blood sugars eight times a day, making sure my blood sugar is at least 100 before going to bed, and going back onto my insulin pump).  But, now that some time has passed, I am loaded with questions about what a "low blood sugar seizure" is.  

How long does one's blood sugar have to be low before seizures ensue?  Is there a medical name for this condition, so I can do more research?  I have attempted typing "low blood sugar seizure" into Google and such, and came across this site, but still, nothing really specific came up about these seizres.  Thanks for any information!
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello vprrchk ~ we're glad you found us and so happy that you find our site helpful to you!  The condition you are referring to is HYPOGLYCEMIA which means 'low blood sugar.'  Every person's sensitivity level is different and therefore where one person may remain conscious at a level of 50, another may encounter a seizure at that same level. I did type "hypoglycemia" into google and many, many links showed up, so try doing that for additional resources.  I found a site which I thought was most informative:

http://www.medicinenet.com/Hypoglycemia/article.htm


The following is some of the imformation provided at this site:

WHAT IS HYPYGLYCEMIA?

Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar (glucose). The blood glucose levels in healthy individuals fluctuate depending greatly on the duration of fasting. The normal range is 70 to 120 mg/dl after an overnight (12 hours) fast. In healthy men, the blood glucose can drop to 55 mg/dl after 24 hours of fasting and to 48 mg/dl after 72 hours of fasting. In healthy women, glucose levels can be as low as 35 mg/dl after only 24 hours of fasting.

Since blood glucose levels can fluctuate widely in healthy subjects, and symptoms of hypoglycemia can be vague and nonspecific, establishing the diagnosis of hypoglycemia as the cause of symptoms is often difficult. When symptoms of hypoglycemia occur together with a documented blood glucose under 45 mg/dl, and the symptoms promptly resolve with the administration of glucose, the diagnosis can be made with more certainty.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HYPOGLYCEMIA?

Hypoglycemia causes the body to release adrenaline. The adrenaline functions to restore and maintain blood glucose levels by mobilizing stored glycogen and fat, converting them into glucose. In turn, the released adrenaline causes symptoms of nervous system stimulation, such asanxiety, sweating, tremor, palpitations, nausea, and pallor. Hypoglycemia also starves the brain of glucose energy, which is essential for proper brain function. Lack of glucose energy to the brain can cause symptoms ranging from headache, mild confusion, and abnormal behavior, to loss of consciousness, seizure, and coma. Severe hypoglycemia can cause death.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia occur at different levels of blood glucose in different patients. In most healthy individuals, symptoms of hypoglycemia may not occur until the glucose level drops below 45 mg/dl. In elderly people, and in patients with chronically high glucose levels (such as patients with poorly controlled diabetes), the symptoms of hypoglycemia can occur at higher glucose levels. In contrast, patients with chronically low blood glucose may experience hypoglycemic symptoms only at very low glucose levels.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HYPOGLYCEMIA?

Causes of hypoglycemia include drugs, liver disease, surgical absence of the stomach, tumors that release excess amounts of insulin, and pre-diabetes. In some patients, symptoms of hypoglycemia occur during fasting (fasting hypoglycemia). In others, symptoms of hypoglycemia occur after meals (reactive hypoglycemia).

Drug-induced hypoglycemia is seen with the inadvertent or intentional overdose of insulin or oral medications used to lower blood glucose. Blood glucose-lowering pills and insulin are medications used to lower the abnormally high blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes mellitus. Examples of blood glucose-lowering pills are glyburide (Micronase, Diabeta, and Glynase) and glipizide (Glucotrol). Other drugs that can cause hypoglycemia include alcohol, quinine (used in treating malaria), pentamidine (used in treating Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia infection in patients with AIDS), and Vacor (rat poison).

The liver stores energy in the form of glycogen. During fasting, glycogen is broken down and converted into glucose. This glycogen conversion into glucose is important in maintaining the blood glucose level. Therefore, during fasting, maintenance of the blood glucose level depends more on glycogen conversion than on sugars we eat. In severe liver disease, this mechanism can be disrupted, leading to hypoglycemia. Kidney failure also can lead to hypoglycemia, especially when the person is deprived of food.

We hope you'll visit the Forum again and provide insight to the various questions posted here . . . after all, with 10 years of diabetes management under your belt, you probably have much to offer our visitors.

Keep us posted on how things progress for you and best wishes!
7 Comments Post a Comment
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Avatar_n_tn
I have read extensively about this subject, being a type 1 who is very sensitive to small doses of insulin, and a heavy sleeper. I, too, have had an occasional episode of a severe low that didn't wake me, but just sent me into unconsciousness which ended up resulting in muscle spasms, or seizure, as it is called. This condition is caused by very low glucose levels, and, as pointed out before, can happen at different levels at different times for each person.

As for brain damage, the danger is PROLONGED hypoglycemia. Did you know that the brain's main fuel is glucose? So when starved for glucose, the brain stops functioning in various areas, and the seizure happens when it is really starving for glucose. The glucose-starved brain can suffer permanent damage from long periods of untreated hypoglycemia. I have read that this can manifest itself in some memory loss if a person has had many very severe lows that were left untreated for hours (the danger at night is that we may sleep through the warning signs and not treat the hypo until it has been a problem for hours). If you were awake and suffered a hypoglycemic episode, you may find your hands shaking and then later on, if you didn't treat it with some carbs, you may find that in addition to the shaking hands, you cannot control your muscles properly to open a can of juice. The next progression is logical... the seizure. So it is not something out of the blue, but something that creeps up and gets worse and worse as the hypo is left untreated and the brain becomes more and more unable to function properly to control the body's activities.

Hormonal swings in women can make diabetic women more prone to this problem at the end of their monthly cycle, and of course other things such as stress or activity can also affect your body's ability to go the long 8-hour period of sleep without food. Checking the glucose just before bed and erring on the side of slightly high in the morning if in any doubt is better than having one of these severe lows. So keep checking it and keep some carbs by your bed in case you need them.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have read extensively about this subject, being a type 1 who is very sensitive to small doses of insulin, and a heavy sleeper. I, too, have had an occasional episode of a severe low that didn't wake me, but just sent me into unconsciousness which ended up resulting in muscle spasms, or seizure, as it is called. This condition is caused by very low glucose levels, and, as pointed out before, can happen at different levels at different times for each person.

As for brain damage, the danger is PROLONGED hypoglycemia. Did you know that the brain's main fuel is glucose? So when starved for glucose, the brain stops functioning in various areas, and the seizure happens when it is really starving for glucose. The glucose-starved brain can suffer permanent damage from long periods of untreated hypoglycemia. I have read that this can manifest itself in some memory loss if a person has had many very severe lows that were left untreated for hours (the danger at night is that we may sleep through the warning signs and not treat the hypo until it has been a problem for hours). If you were awake and suffered a hypoglycemic episode, you may find your hands shaking and then later on, if you didn't treat it with some carbs, you may find that in addition to the shaking hands, you cannot control your muscles properly to open a can of juice. The next progression is logical... the seizure. So it is not something out of the blue, but something that creeps up and gets worse and worse as the hypo is left untreated and the brain becomes more and more unable to function properly to control the body's activities.

Hormonal swings in women can make diabetic women more prone to this problem at the end of their monthly cycle, and of course other things such as stress or activity can also affect your body's ability to go the long 8-hour period of sleep without food. Checking the glucose just before bed and erring on the side of slightly high in the morning if in any doubt is better than having one of these severe lows. So keep checking it and keep some carbs by your bed in case you need them.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you both for your responses, they were helpful.  I have taken the information and will use it to hopefully prevent another episode, thank you :)
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1274718_tn?1270843176
I too have juvenile Type 1 diabetes, and have had it for 42-years and I'm  on two insulin shots a day. I've had so many low blood sugar attacks in my sleep that resulted in severe seizures and awoke hrs later either in a hospital or by a family member or sometimes managed to get myself out of it by only Gods help with orange juice, peanut butter and crackers, But ever since it suddenly started going so low in my sleep and I became unconious, well now I have servere short term memory and trouble consentrating and learning things, and it's so scarey, because I don't feel like myself anymore, because before all these attacks started happened to me I was a very smart person with a great memory and all, and now I feel stupid. I have such short term memory that if something is very important to remember  have to write it down because within a few seconds I'll totally forget it. I ordered an alarm watch that detects when my blood sugars get too low it will send off an alarm that if I can respond it will awake me so I can get O.juice to revive myself . I ordered this alarm watch from the internet and my B/C/B/S paid 80% of the cost of the watch when I had insurance, but now I don't have any coverage at all not even to be able to take good care of my diabetes anymore .   Good luck to all of you who are a diabetics, and do all you can to keep your blood sugars up a little when you go to sleep, because I have no symtoms (symptoms) to awake me anymore when mine falls too low, and believe me it's no fun at all loosing a part of your mind that's so important to get you through your life.
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Avatar_m_tn
Hi nacoma, you posted a comment a very long time ago in 2010 and I don't know if you are even still using this site but my boyfriend has type 1 diabetes and he's had idk maybe 6 or 7 diabetic seizures and he was wondering more info about how many seizures you've had and how many you had before you started noticing memory loss etc. We're concerned about the brain damage issue. I've always called 911 right away when it happened and they always took care of it pretty fast.
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Avatar_m_tn
Hello RachelHeart.

I am 46 and have been Type I diabetic since 1983. I hope I can shed some light on what the seizure experience has been for me. I don't claim to know how your boyfriend experiences them, but he will probably never forget the side-effects. I have had approximately 40 Tonic-Clonic seizures since 1983. My seizures have varied in length, severity and side effects. Some have caused severe memory loss at the time, but slowly my memory came back. Some are life changing, and some are a minor inconvenience, but all are life threatening.

What I must tell you is that in MY experience T-C seizures DO cause damage to the brain. Recall, memory, cognition, and focus have been a few symptoms for me at one time or another. As for permanent loss, I can only say I've noticed SOME degree of loss. I have a B.S. in Journalism and have spent many hours in classrooms. Frustratingly there are times when my ability to recall is not there. If I wait long enough for my neurons to find another path, the memory returns. So I don't believe permanent is the proper terminology, more like temporary loss, pending a new route among our billions of cells up there to navigate. I do believe the starving of my brain of crucial fuel for semi-short periods of time (less than one hour) caused side effects like the killing of brain cells. Fortunately we have so many up there waiting to do something, we just need to re-teach them.

In my situation the avoidance of these T-C seizures is my top priority. Frequent BG checking, low carb diet, low doses of Insulin, excersize, NO alcohol, (because of its serious compromising of the liver which creates needed glucose), and preparedness and awareness. I keep a Coke nearby ALL the time, an energy bar, and my meter, wherever I go.

Severe T-C seizures (loss of consiousness for more than 30 minutes) can only be explained as a life altering experience. They seemed to take a part of me that I feel I'll never get back. A part of me I can only describe as my soul. Loss of memory and cognition are scary enough, but this piece of a T-C is one I'd like to forget. Time heals the immediate terror and fear, but the sensation of the part of me I've lost...lingers.

And after each T-C I wonder what part of me it took, or intensified, this time. My ability to feel, like I did pre-seizure, hope, motivation, fear. Everybody has their own experiences. When the brain shuts down during glucose loss, there are places that medicine can't quantify with a scan or an MRI. They are a PART of me and nobody knows what I lost, better than me. Even then, I struggle to identify what has changed in my thought process. However, on a positive note, many seizures are shorter and less severe and I've felt fine hours later, so the life-changing seizure is rare but very real.

Sympathetically Yours,
Ryan
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