Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, is an abnormally low level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Since glucose is the body’s main source of energy, long periods of low blood sugar can cause significant health problems, including seizures, loss of consciousness, or even death. Initial signs of hypoglycemia include an abnormal heartbeat (palpitations), low energy (fatigue), anxiety, irritability, trembling, and weakness. Without treatment, hypoglycemia can lead to poor concentration, numbness of the mouth, blurred vision and coma.
Hypoglycemia is considered a symptom and not a disease. There are many causes of hypoglycemia. The most common reason is a reaction to certain diabetes medications, specifically insulin. Other less common causes of hypoglycemia include excessive alcohol consumption, certain liver diseases, conditions that cause a person to make too much insulin, and genetic conditions that stop a person from breaking down certain parts of food (protein, fats and sugars). If you or your child’s doctor suspects hypoglycemia, they can confirm the diagnosis by measuring a blood glucose level. A person meets the criteria for hypoglycemia if their symptoms are present during times of low blood sugar and they go away when the blood sugar returns to normal. The treatment of hypoglycemia depends on the cause. The goal of treatment is to raise blood sugar, which can usually be done by consuming fast-acting sugars like candy and fruit juice. If the hypoglycemia is severe enough, your doctor may use glucagon, a hormone that tells your body to immediately raise the blood sugar. If you or your child has been diagnosed with hypoglycemia, talk with your doctor to identify the cause and determine the best treatment.