Low Blood Sugar

Too high? Too low?

Managing diabetes can be a balancing act. Your body does not always respond in exactly the same way to the things that make your blood sugar levels rise and fall. Even when you are very careful about control, your blood sugar may go too high or too low. Having a blood sugar level that's too high (hyperglycemia) can lead to feelings of fatigue or moodiness as well as long-term complications in the future. But having blood sugar go too low (hypoglycemia) can be scary for you and those near you. That's why it's important to educate yourself—and those who care for you— about hypoglycemia and what to do if it happens.

The causes of low blood sugar

Any number of things, working in combination, can cause your blood sugar to drop too low.

  • The amount of medicine—pills and/or insulin you have taken
  • Too little food
  • A delayed meal
  • Too much exercise
  • Drinking alcohol

The warning signs and symptoms of low blood sugar

Different people feel different ways when they have low blood sugar. You need to know what signals your body may give you when your blood sugar is too low.

Check your blood glucose levels if you suddenly experience any of the following:

  • Dizziness, shakiness, or trembling
  • Nervousness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Headache
  • Irritability, moodiness, or anger
  • Sweating, chills, or clamminess
  • Tingling in your face or lips
  • Extreme hunger

Check also if you wake up in the middle of the night with a nightmare or restlessness, or if your pajamas are damp with sweat when you wake up. These may also be symptoms of low blood sugar. Remember, low blood sugar may occur without symptoms so it is important to regularly check blood sugar throughout the day.

Treating low blood sugar

You can sometimes prevent low blood sugar by watching how and when you eat and exercise. You will want to be able to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar and raise your levels at once. Ask your healthcare team exactly how you can do that. Your goal is to raise your blood sugar back to a safe level—70 to 80 mg/dL. To know if you are within that range, you will need to check your levels with your monitor. After you have had something to eat or drink, wait about 15 minutes, and test again. If your level is still low, eat or drink more high-sugar foods.

What to do for low blood sugar

  • Drink a half can of regular—not diet—soda
  • Eat or drink high-sugar foods such as candy, milk, or fruit juice
  • Eat glucose tablets or glucose gel (available at pharmacies)
  • Make sure your loved ones know the signs of low blood sugar and to call 9-1-1 in an emergency

Important Safety Information for Insulin

Possible side effects may include blood sugar levels that are too low, injection site reactions, and allergic reactions, including itching and rash. Tell your doctor about all other medicines and supplements you are taking because they could change the way insulin works. Glucose monitoring is recommended for all patients with diabetes.

The health information contained herein is provided for general education purposes only. Your healthcare professional is the single best source of information regarding your health. Please consult your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your health or treatment.