Hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar, occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels. Glucose, an important source of energy for the body, comes from food. Carbohydrates are the main dietary source of glucose. Rice, potatoes, bread, tortillas, cereal, milk, fruit, and sweets are all carbohydrate-rich foods.
After a meal, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the body’s cells. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps the cells use glucose for energy. If a person takes in more glucose than the body needs at the time, the body stores the extra glucose in the liver and muscles in a form called glycogen. The body can use glycogen for energy between meals. Extra glucose can also be changed to fat and stored in fat cells. Fat can also be used for energy.
When blood glucose begins to fall, glucagon—another hormone made by the pancreas—signals the liver to break down glycogen and release glucose into the bloodstream. Blood glucose will then rise toward a normal level. In some people with diabetes, this glucagon response to hypoglycemia is impaired and other hormones such as epinephrine, also called adrenaline, may raise the blood glucose level. But with diabetes treated with insulin or pills that increase insulin production, glucose levels can’t easily return to the normal range.
Hypoglycemia can happen suddenly. It is usually mild and can be treated quickly and easily by eating or drinking a small amount of glucose-rich food. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can get worse and cause confusion, clumsiness, or fainting. Severe hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, coma, and even death.
In adults and children older than 10 years, hypoglycemia is uncommon except as a side effect of diabetes treatment. Hypoglycemia can also result, however, from other medications or diseases, hormone or enzyme deficiencies, or tumors.
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia causes symptoms such as
dizziness or light-headedness
Hypoglycemia can also happen during sleep. Some signs of hypoglycemia during sleep include
crying out or having nightmares
finding pajamas or sheets damp from perspiration
feeling tired, irritable, or confused after waking up
What is hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia, also called “high blood glucose,” is a serious manifestation of diabetes that may be caused by too little insulin, illness, infection, injury, stress or emotional upset, ingestion of food that has not been covered by the appropriate amount of insulin, or decreased exercise or activity. High blood glucose symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, nausea, blurry vision, and fatigue. Over a long period of time, even moderately high blood glucose levels can lead to serious complications, such as heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations. In the short term, hyperglycemia can impair cognitive abilities and adversely affect academic performance. Hyperglycemia does not usually result in acute problems. If, however, the student fails to take insulin, if a pump malfunctions and delivers less insulin, or if either physical or emotional stress
causes the insulin not to work effectively, there will be a breakdown of fat, causing ketones to form.
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