What does low blood sugar level mean? It means that the amount of glucose in the blood has dropped below what the body needs to function efficiently. How better to explain this is normally blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day, between meals, after meals, and during physical activity. But for those individuals who have diabetes, a low blood sugar level can be very serious and if the blood sugars are not corrected could become life threatening.
When does low blood sugar happen?
A low blood sugar level occurs when the glucose drops below 65 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). Symptoms can come on rather quickly, within ten to fifteen minutes, and be due to a number of factors, such as the start of the menstrual cycle, too much insulin, skipping a meal or snack, exercising without eating, or by drinking too much alcohol. Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can also cause a fluctuation in glucose leading to a low blood sugar level. A health care professional should always be consulted before taking a new medication about the possibility of it causing a reaction.
Symptoms of a mild low blood sugar level may not always be apparent until it begins to drop further. The diabetic may begin to experience fatigue, dizziness, sweating, rapid heart rate, difficulty concentrating, shakiness, weakness, irritability, blurred vision, or confusion, and if some type of sugar is not eaten immediately, symptoms of a low blood sugar level can progress to loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma.
Most diabetics are aware of even the slightest onset of symptoms, especially if they have had the disease for a while. Diabetics are encouraged to check their blood sugar levels frequently throughout the day, usually before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime, or at any other time that there is a question whether a low blood sugar level is suspected.
For those with low blood sugar level – blood sugar goals recommended by:
The American Diabetes Association sets the following guidelines for those with diabetes:
- before eating (pre-prandial) 70-130 mg/dl
- 1-2 hours after eating (peak post-prandial) <180 mg/dl
- A1c blood sugar test (3 month blood sugar indicator) <7%
Treatment for a mild low blood sugar level reading of 65 mg/dL, would be to drink sweetened juice, milk, or glucose tablets. As the glucose level drops further, symptoms become more severe and a glucagon injection may be needed to bring the level up quickly. If a low blood sugar level is around 40 mg/dL or less glucagon should still be given, but at this time unconsciousness has probably occurred and paramedics should be called immediately.
Anyone that is a diabetic has the information on what to do if they have what is commonly called a hypo and in preparation for a time when they have low blood sugar should always be carried with them at all times.
For those of us who are either friends or a family member of a diabetic you can help by just knowing the warning signs of low blood sugar levels and being able to act quickly.