Hypoglycemia - self-care
Low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. A blood sugar level below 70 mg/dL is low and can harm you.
You are at risk for low blood sugar if you have diabetes and are taking any of the following diabetes medications:
Know how to tell when your blood sugar is getting low. Symptoms include:
Sometimes your blood sugar may be too low even if you do not have symptoms. If it gets too low, you may:
Talk with your doctor or nurse about when you should check your blood sugar every day. People who have low blood sugar need to check their blood sugar more often.
The most common causes of low blood sugar are:
Preventing low blood sugar is better than having to treat it.
Family and friends should know how to help. They should know:
If you have diabetes, always wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This helps emergency medical workers know you have diabetes.
Check your blood sugar whenever you have symptoms of low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL, treat yourself right away.
You may need to eat a snack with carbohydrates and protein if your blood sugar is in a safer range -- over 70 mg/dL -- and your next meal is more than an hour away.
Ask your doctor or nurse how to manage this situation. If these steps for raising your blood sugar do not work, call your doctor right away.
If you use insulin and your blood sugar is frequent or consistently low, ask your doctor or nurse if you:
Do not make any changes without talking to your doctor or nurse first.
Sometimes hypoglycemia can be due to taking the wrong medicines. Check your medicines with your pharmacist.
If signs of low blood sugar do not improve after you have eaten a snack that contains sugar, have someone drive you to the emergency room or call your local emergency number (such as 911). Do not drive when your blood sugar is low.
Get medical help right away for a person with low blood sugar if the person is not alert or cannot be awakened.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2014. Diabetes Care. 2014;37:S14-S80.
Cryer PE. Hypoglycemia. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 34.
Updated by: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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