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Regular self-monitoring of glucose levels has not been proven to have benefits for people with type 2 diabetes who do not inject insulin. It is not known whether self-monitoring can help prevent diabetes-related complications in this group of people.

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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Hypoglycemia

Insulin shock; Low blood sugar

Last reviewed: June 27, 2012.

Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too low.

Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low. Blood sugar at or below this level can harm you.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Hypoglycemia occurs when:

  • Your body's sugar (glucose) is used up too quickly
  • Glucose is released into the bloodstream too slowly
  • Too much insulin is released into the bloodstream

Insulin is a hormone that reduces blood sugar. It is produced by the pancreas in response to increased glucose levels in the blood.

Low blood sugar is most commonly seen in people with diabetes who are taking insulin or other medicines to control their diabetes.

Babies who are born to mothers with diabetes may have severe drops in blood sugar.

Hypoglycemia in people who do not have diabetes may be caused by:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Insulinoma - a rare tumor in the pancreas that produces too much insulin
  • Lack (deficiency) of a hormone, such as cortisol or thyroid hormone
  • Severe heart, kidney, or liver failure or a body-wide infection
  • Some types of weight-loss surgery

Symptoms

Symptoms you may have when your blood sugar gets too low include:

  • Double vision or blurry vision
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Feeling cranky or acting aggressive
  • Feeling nervous
  • Headache
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Sweating
  • Tingling or numbness of the skin
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unclear thinking

Sometimes your blood sugar may be too low, even if you do not have symptoms. If your blood sugar gets too low, you may:

Signs and tests

Home monitoring of blood sugar with a fingerstick sample will show readings lower than 70 mg/dL on your glucose monitor.

A blood glucose test in a blood sample taken from your veins will be low.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause. People with diabetes will need to learn how to treat and prevent low blood sugar levels.

If hypoglycemia is caused by an insulinoma (insulin-releasing tumor), surgery to remove the tumor is the best treatment.

Complications

Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency that may cause seizures and permanent brain damage. Severe hypoglycemia in which you become unconscious is also called insulin shock.

Calling your health care provider

If signs of low blood sugar do not improve after you have eaten a snack that contains sugar:

  • GET A RIDE to the emergency room, or
  • Call a local emergency number (such as 911)

DO NOT drive when your blood sugar is low.

Get medical help right away for a person with diabetes or low blood sugar who:

  • Becomes less alert
  • Cannot be woken up

References

  1. Cryer PE. Hypoglycemia. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 34.

Review Date: 6/27/2012.

Reviewed by: Shehzad Topiwala, MD, Chief Consultant Endocrinologist, Premier Medical Associates, The Villages, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Probiotics to prevent gestational diabetes mellitus
    Gestational diabetes mellitus is a condition where the mother has high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. It is associated with a range of adverse pregnancy outcomes for the mother, such as pre‐eclampsia (high blood pressure with protein in the urine) and instrumental or operative delivery, as well as for the infants who may be born large‐for‐gestational age. Current treatment includes diet with or without medication. Prevention of this condition would be preferable to treatment. Preventative diet and lifestyle interventions are time consuming and do not always reduce the number of women getting gestational diabetes. Probiotics ‐ 'good' bacteria that are usually taken in the form of capsules or drinks ‐ supplement the gut bacteria. They have the potential to change a person's metabolism and so prevent gestational diabetes mellitus. This review was designed to look at whether there is evidence to show if this is true or not. At the moment there is only one randomised controlled study, which involved 256 women. This study does show a lower rate of gestational diabetes mellitus in women who took probiotics from early pregnancy, with the rate of diagnosis of gestational diabetes mellitus being reduced by two‐thirds and their babies on average weighed 127 g less at birth. This study did not find differences in the rates of miscarriage, intrauterine or neonatal death or stillbirth. There was no clear evidence of a change in the proportion of women delivered by caesarean section or in the risk of preterm delivery. The study did not report on how much weight the mothers gained during pregnancy or how many babies were large‐for‐gestational age or that weighed more than 4000 g at birth or on the body composition of the babies. One study is not enough to draw any definite conclusions at the moment. There are other studies underway.
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Figures

  • Food and insulin release.

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