By Jariatou Mary Jallow
The human body is designed to regulate the elements that are needed for its normal function. Amongst the elements essentially needed in the body is Glucose. In the subsequent paragraphs, I am going to give you a rundown on hypoglycemia, its effects and how it can be prevented.
Glucose otherwise known as “blood sugar” is indispensable to the cells of the body. Glucose is mainly derived from Carbohydrates such as rice, coos, floor, fruits, etc and glycogen stores of our liver. The glucose that we obtain from sources plays essential roles in the body. The cells need glucose to provide energy to the body, store glycogen in the tissues and form fats depots for deposition under the skin. However, the rate at which glucose is used by the body needs to be regulated.
The cells can only metabolize a certain proportion of glucose that is absorbed in the body. When there is a greater proportion of glucose in the body beyond the physiologic limits that the body can take care of, Hyperglycemia (hyper=high; glycemia=blood sugar) results. However, when there is a lower proportion of glucose in the body for normal body functioning, Hypoglycemia (hypo=low; glycemia=blood sugar) results. Hypoglycemia could be deadly if not treated as early as possible.
If you have diabetes, your concern isn’t always that your blood sugar is too high. Your blood sugar can also drop too low, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Even if you don’t have diabetes, you may experience it, and this occurs when your blood sugar levels fall below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).
Hypoglycemia could result from the following scenarios: The first scenario could be as a result of glucose consumption specifically as result of poor eating habits. The way in which we live our lives really matter because our life choices influence our body metabolism. Our work, the busy schedules, time we allocate for meals are really important in our quest to stay healthy.
Skipping meals for example, can be a key difference in determining whether we are hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic. Breakfast being the most essential meal in the day should be taken at the right time and in the right proportions. Consumption of some amount of glucose in the early hours of the morning could save your cells from starving to death off glucose. This is quite significant because when we sleep at night till morning, our body is being put into the fasting state relying only on the glycogen stores of our liver for glucose. So, this glycogen, that is being used by the body for its metabolism needs to be replaced, and one key method of replenishing those glycogen stores is by eating carbohydrate in the morning as breakfast.
Also, our frequent ingestion of pills such as Insulin for people with Diabetes Mellitus can contribute to us being hypoglycemic. But I thought Insulin is good for my Diabetes. Or is it not? Insulin is essential in helping to reduce your blood sugar as in Diabetes. However, certain group of people ingest too much of it. When you ingest too much Insulin, your body metabolism speeds up because Insulin will provide the signal to your cells to metabolize essentially all of your glucose thus, leading to hypoglycemia.
And another way in which we could become hypoglycemic has to deal with how frequent we exercise. Exercise is vital in maintaining the good health. Good exercise such as daily routine work-outs, going to the gym, running and walking long distances make us stronger and less prone to diseases and illnesses. At the cellular level, our cells work better when we exercise because they metabolize faster during those times. However, too much exercise is not good for the body as it increases oxygen radicals in the body. Oxygen radicals essentially bind to macromolecules such as peptides and fats subsequently leading to cell injury, cancer and cell mutation. Other ways in which one can be transiently hypoglycemic are weight-loss surgery, severe infections, thyroid hormone deficiency and cortisol hormone deficiency.
Without enough glucose, your body cannot perform its normal functions. In the short term, people who aren’t on medications that increase insulin have enough glucose to maintain blood sugar levels, and the liver can make glucose if needed. However, for those on these specific medications, a short-term reduction in blood sugar can cause a lot of problems. Your blood sugar is considered low when it drops below 70 mg/dL. Immediate treatment for low blood sugar levels is important to prevent more serious symptoms from developing.
A number of diabetes medications are associated with causing hypoglycemia, only those medications that increase insulin production increase the risk for hypoglycemia.
Medications that can cause hypoglycemia include: insulin, glimepiride (Amaryl), glipizide (Glucotrol, Glucotrol XL), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase, Micronase), nateglinide (Starlix), and repaglinide (Prandin).
Combination pills that contain one of the medications above may also cause hypoglycemic episodes. This is a reason why it’s so important to test your blood sugar, especially when making changes to your treatment plan.
The only clinical way to detect hypoglycemia is to test your blood sugar. However, without blood tests it’s still possible to identify low blood sugar by its symptoms.
Lack of glucose energy to the brain can cause symptoms ranging from headache, mild confusion, abnormal behavior, dizziness, feeling as if you might faint,, heart palpitations, irritability, rapid heartbeat, shakiness, sudden changes in mood, sweating, chills, or loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma. Severe hypoglycemia can cause death. . In some patients, symptoms of hypoglycemia occur during fasting (fasting hypoglycemia). In others, symptoms of hypoglycemia occur after meals (reactive hypoglycemia).
If you suspect you may be experiencing a hypoglycemic episode, check your blood sugar immediately and get treatment, if needed. If you don’t have a meter with you but believe you have low blood sugar, be sure to treat it.
How is hypoglycemia treated?
Treating hypoglycemia depends upon the severity of your symptoms. If you have mild or moderate symptoms, you can self-treat your hypoglycemia. Initial steps include eating a snack that contains about 15 grams of glucose or fast-digesting carbohydrates.
Examples of these snacks include:
1 cup of milk
3 or 4 pieces of hard candy
1/2 cup fruit juice, such as orange juice
1/2 cup of regular soda
3 or 4 glucose tablets
1/2 package of glucose gel
1 tablespoon of sugar or honey
After you consume this 15-gram serving, wait for about 15 minutes and recheck your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar is 70 mg/dl or above, you have treated your hypoglycemic episode. If it remains lower than 70 mg/dl, consume another 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar. Wait another 15 minutes and check your blood sugar again to ensure it has gone up.
Once your blood sugar is up, be sure to eat a small meal or snack if you’re not planning to eat within the next hour. If you continue to repeat these steps, yet cannot raise your blood sugar level, go to the hospital. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
If you experience mild to moderate hypoglycemic episodes several times in one week, or any severe hypoglycemic episodes, see a doctor. You may need to adjust your meal plan or medications to prevent further episodes.
How is hypoglycemia treated if I lose consciousness?
Severe blood sugar drops can cause you to pass out. This is more likely in people with type 1 diabetes. This can be a life-threatening occurrence. It’s important that you educate your family, friends, and even coworkers on how to administer a glucagon injection if you lose consciousness during a hypoglycemic episode. Glucagon is a hormone that stimulates the liver to break down stored glycogen into glucose for your body’s use. Talk to your doctor to see if you need a prescription for a glucagon emergency kit.
Other treatment modalities include intravenous administration of 50% glucose or other concentrated format. Remember to rush the patient to the nearest health facility for expert review and management.
How is hypoglycemia prevented?
The best way to avoid hypoglycemia is by following your treatment plan. A diabetes control plan to prevent hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic episodes includes managing your diet (do not skip or delay your meals or snacks), physical activity, and medication
If one of these is off balance, hypoglycemia can occur.
The only way to know your blood sugar levels is to test your blood sugar. If you use insulin to control your blood sugar, you should check blood sugar levels four or more times per day. Your doctor will help you decide how often you should test.
If your blood sugar levels are not in the target range, work with your doctor to change your treatment plan. This will help you identify what actions might lower your blood sugar suddenly, such as skipping a meal or exercising more than usual. You should not make any adjustments without notifying your doctor.