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If the glucose percentage in the bloodstream drops below about 80mg/dl, a person's body loses the fuel it needs to operate the muscles, run the brain, and operate other essential functions. Physical symptoms provide clues that this level drop is underway. A person can either use a meter to verify the condition. Or preferably, take immediate action to boost the glucose level by ingesting sugary foods. If the person is losing consciousness, there are ways for professionals to inject essential hormones to bypass the digestive system and restore a healthy blood glucose level.

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What is low blood sugar

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, occurs when the body doesn’t have enough sugar in the bloodstream to keep its functions operating normally. It is transported in the bloodstream much as oxygen is, and is also a vital substance. When blood sugar drops too low, muscles become weak, and thinking becomes confused. Eventually, coma and death can result. Low blood sugar can be confused with many other conditions, from alcohol intoxication to stroke and dementia. Since it is usually easy to test blood sugar and supply a sweet beverage or food, these should be performed, and emergency personnel called if needed for additional concerns. Frequent low blood sugar events can be harmful to the body, so patients should ensure that their medications and eating habits keep their sugar levels stable, whether they are diabetic, hypoglycemic, or have another related condition.  

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How hypoglycemia affects the body

Low blood sugar initially shows feelings similar to those people have when dinner's overdue. They become moody, slower thinkers, may lose their balance and have less muscle strength. They may also become sleepy and lethargic. As the blood sugar level falls further, physical symptoms will increase. Low blood sugar, as with any significant change in blood sugar levels, can also affect diabetic complications such as eye damage. Low blood sugar also can indicate poor management of diet and medication, which has many other effects on the body and overall health. It shouldn't just be corrected without going on to talk with a medical professional about the event.

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Shaking and Tremors

Tremors can occur from hypoglycemia's effect on the brain's motor control, or the management of muscle movement. It is often visible first in the hands, which shake when still or holding an object. If this sign is observed, it's important to check for other signs of low blood sugar and seek medical help if boosting sugar levels doesn't correct the tremors.

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Sweating

The body responds to low blood sugar by sweating, often during the night. "Night sweats" should be discussed with a doctor, especially if the person has already been diagnosed diabetic and is taking medicine or additional hormones. During the day, sweating can combine with other signs listed here and together they indicate that low blood sugar may be a problem which needs immediate attention.  

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Cognitive issues

Dropping blood sugar levels can cause a steady decline in mental ability. Since drinking alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, this sign can be confused with drunkenness, but that's a dangerous assumption. Slower thinking, confusion, increased reaction time are all ways that low sugar's effect on the brain can show. This indicates that immediate attention is required to correct the problem or, if it is not a blood sugar problem, additional urgent medical help may be required for stroke or other brain issues.

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Weakness

Lack of usable sugar in the muscles is another reason to check blood sugar, especially if it is not isolated to one side of the body or the other. It may combine with tremors, sweating of the palms, and thinking challenges. Check the sugar level and address it right away, and also consider the possibility of stroke, especially if the muscle weakness is only on one side of the body.

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Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations, which may feel like anxiety, may show when blood sugar levels drop. Patients taking beta blockers, a class of medications which address heart and blood pressure problems, may mask this sign. If palpitations occur with sweaty palms, don't write it off as anxiety, but check for other signs of low blood sugar.

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Extreme symptoms

If blood sugar continues to drop, more serious problems may occur which the patient cannot personally address, such as fainting and coma. These can be fatal and giving sugar by mouth as a remedy is not possible or safe at this point. This is a medical emergency, requiring trained personnel to boost the blood sugar levels by injection.

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Response to sugar input

Protein such as peanut butter, carbs such as sugary soda, and even hormone injections can raise the sugar level to near-normal values for a time. Protein helps keep the sugar levels elevated, such as when sugar levels drop during a long walk. Sugary (not diet) soda and other easily digestible sources of sugar can help boost blood sugar levels quickly. They should be administered in increments to avoid high blood sugar levels by overshoot. EMTs and other medical professionals have additional tools to boost blood sugar in an emergency.

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Confirm with glucometer

Glucometer readings are usually 50 ml/dl or lower in hypoglycemia. In cases where the body is not using glucose effectively, this condition can arise even if the blood sugar numbers are not low. Regular glucometer testing can help the patient understand how different factors affect his blood sugar. And whether anything unusual is happening such as increased hormone resistance.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.