Running out of insulin is a common issue among diabetics. This is the reason why doctors require them to carry around insulin pumps. When their blood glucose level runs too low or too high, anything bad can happen. But, even non-diabetics are at risk of suffering from hypoglycemia.
Several factors contribute to hypoglycemia such as:
- Insulinomas, a condition in which a tumor produces insulin
- Medications that affect the body’s normal production of insulin
- Insulin resistance, which often precedes Type 2 diabetes
- Low-carb diet
In this blog post, we will be focusing on Hypoglycemia – its definition, symptoms, and treatments.
What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia, insulin shock, or insulin reaction is defined by an abnormal drop in blood glucose level (70 mg/dl or less) based on an individual’s target range. Having low blood sugar is as bad as high blood sugar.
Glucose (sugar) is one of the body’s major sources of energy and is manufactured in the form of complex carbohydrates or simple sugar. When a person runs out of glucose, the body is facing a serious threat that could lead to brain damage.
Here’s how it works:
- The body saves sugar for future use in the liver. This stored sugar is called glycogen.
- When blood sugar is critically low, the liver starts processing glycogen to convert it into new sugar. This biochemical process is called gluco-neo genesis. For some reason, this process is not enough to stop the drop.
- Critically low blood sugar is when the body runs out of blood sugar and feels weak or if the brain’s demand for glucose increases. The brain is dependent on glucose to function but it cannot manufacture its own supply. It’s the body’s duty to feed the brain all the time so it can work properly.
- When the brain senses that the glucose level in the body is falling, it sends messages to other parts of the body. This reaction triggers the below symptoms, your brain’s way of protecting itself from damage.
- Difficulty speaking
- Excessive hunger
- Heavy sweating
- Anxiety or nervousness
These symptoms are easily recognizable. In rare cases, however, hypoglycemic unawareness may occur. Hypoglycemic unawareness means the insulin level drops at rapid rate ahead of all symptoms, so they are not detected. This quickly becomes a dangerous situation.
An individual’s reaction to hypoglycemia varies, just as the severity of the condition. But once a symptom or two sets in, pay close attention.
- Normally, people experiencing hypoglycemia feel the urge to eat. This is the body’s way of telling that it is running low on energy. The proper response is to elevate blood glucose level by eating before the brain runs out of stock. Failing to respond will cause the blood glucose to continue to drop causing dizziness and trembling. If left untreated, it can lead to seizure or comatose.
- If you don’t have an insulin pump, fruit juices, raw fruit, soda, table sugar (at least 4 teaspoons) or candy are quick fixes. Candy is especially helpful so you might want to carry some around everyday especially if you are up for high level of activity.
- Complex carbohydrates such as sweet pastries, cookies, brownies, and other sweet treats don’t qualify as ideal first aid treatments, because these combine protein and fat. Your body will have a hard time absorbing the glucose in them fast.
- Initially, the body would need about 15 grams of sugar to get their blood glucose back to normal. Another 15 grams can be administered if nothing happens, and another 15 grams if the symptoms persist after 10 minutes. If the symptoms do not go away after three tries or within 30 minutes, it’s time to call an ambulance.
- It is advisable to consume more carbohydrates once you’re past acute stage to normalize your blood glucose level. Something as simple as a half sandwich is a good option.
- The best way to prevent hypoglycemia is to monitor your glucose level all the time.
- Ask your doctor about your safe blood glucose level and know if you are at high risk.
- Know how your body reacts to hypoglycemia. Familiarizing yourself with your symptoms would help you determine the right treatments.
- Prepare a detailed report and have your doctor check them to know whether your hypoglycemia is insulin pump or medication-induced.
- A family member, regular companion, or a roommate of yours should also be informed and educated about administering hypoglycemia treatments, just as you should be counseled on checking your blood glucose and managing your symptoms before going out or living alone.
- Indicating your health condition in your ID card is also another good safety precaution. Anything can happen at any time. If people around you, even strangers are aware of your hypoglycemia, you can prevent going into a coma.
You already know the nature of the condition, what happens during an episode, how, and why it happens. The key to avoiding dangerous situations is preparation.