Low Blood Sugar. What is low blood sugar? What else is low blood sugar called? Why does low blood sugar occur?

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1 Low Blood Sugar What is low blood sugar? Low blood sugar means there is not enough glucose (sugar) in the body. Glucose is the major fuel needed to feed the body's cells. A normal glucose level will vary slightly from one lab to another. It is most often between 65 and 115. The normal glucose level for the OSUMC lab is 74 to 106. Low blood sugar means the glucose is below 70. What else is low blood sugar called? Other words that also mean low blood sugar are: Hypoglycemia Insulin shock Insulin reaction These words all mean the same - the blood sugar is too low. Why does low blood sugar occur? There are several reasons for low blood sugar. The most common reasons are: Taking too much insulin or oral diabetes medicine Skipping, missing or delaying meals Learn more about your health care. More on next page Copyright, (2000-5/5/2011) Department of Medical Surgical Nursing, Diabetes and Metabolism, Division of Endocrinology, The Ohio State University Medical Center - Upon request all patient education handouts are available in other formats for people with special hearing, vision and language needs, call (614)

2 Page 2 Doing too much exercise or unplanned exercise A combination of any of the above There also may be times when you will not know the reason for low blood sugar. How will I feel when my blood sugar is too low? Low blood sugar affects everyone differently. Some people have warning signs while other people have none. It is more common in people who have had diabetes for many years not to have warning signs. You must learn how you feel when your glucose is too low. Sometimes low blood sugar develops slowly while other times it happens rapidly (within minutes). Signs of low blood sugar are: Feeling shaky Feeling dizzy or lightheaded A fast heartbeat Feeling moody or grumpy Feeling weak or tired Numbness around mouth / lips Being unable to speak Feeling hungry Feeling nervous A headache Blurred vision Not thinking clearly Sweating

3 Page 3 What do I do if I have low blood sugar? You need to eat or drink some food with sugar. Any of these will work: 1 cup of milk 1 tablespoon of sugar ½ cup of juice or soda 3 squares of graham crackers Chew three glucose tablets 2 teaspoons of honey or syrup 5 to 6 mini jelly beans 2 to 3 gumdrop candies or regular size jelly beans Wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar. If your blood sugar is still less than 100, or if you are not feeling better, eat or drink another serving of food or drink from the list. Again wait 15 minutes and recheck your blood sugar. If your blood sugar is 100 or more, you will be fine. You may feel tired for awhile. If it is time for your next meal soon, go ahead and sit down and eat. If you next meal time is more than an hour away, eat a snack of ½ sandwich and a cup of milk. If you check your blood sugar and it is 100 or more and you are still not feeling better, you should call 911. It may not be a problem with your blood sugar and you may need more help. Be careful not to over treat. If you panic and start to eat or drink until you feel better, your blood sugar may go too high. If you have low blood sugars more than two times in a week, you should call your doctor or diabetes educator. Does low blood sugar often occur? Low blood sugar should not occur often. By keeping records of your glucose tests, you can see patterns of low blood sugar. Your doctor and you can make changes in your diet, medicines or exercise routine so low blood sugar does not happen often.

4 Page 4 How can I prevent low blood sugar? You can prevent low blood sugar by following your diabetes plan. This includes: Eating meals and snacks at the same time every day. Not missing, skipping or delaying meals. Not taking extra medicine (insulin, oral agents) without your doctor s advice. Sticking to your exercise routine. Talking with your doctor and dietitian before starting a weight loss diet. Calling your doctor when you have frequent low blood sugars, or wide swings from high to low. Keeping food like crackers, gels, or juice with you at all times at work, in your car, and when you exercise. Wear a medical alert bracelet or pendent. If you cannot speak for yourself during an emergency this bracelet tells people you have diabetes. You also should carry a medical card in your wallet that lists your: Name Address and phone number Doctor's name and phone number All the medicines you are taking A family member's name and phone number

5 Page 5 What should my family and friends know about low blood sugar? Your spouse, family members, roommates, friends and co-workers should know that you have diabetes. It is up to you to decide who you tell and how much you tell them about diabetes. They should know that you can have low blood sugar and what they can do when it happens. If you have Type 1 diabetes, a family member, spouse or roommate also should learn how to give a shot of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that raises your blood sugar. It is used for severe low blood sugar when you might be found unconscious. Liquids and food should never be given to some one who is not alert or awake. A nurse will teach your spouse, family member or friend how to give glucagon. What else can I do to control my diabetes? Other ways to control you diabetes include: Keep all your appointments with your doctor, diabetes nurse, and dietitian. Follow your meal plan. Check and record your glucose levels. Take your insulin and oral diabetes medicine as directed. Exercise regularly. Call your doctor, nurse or dietitian with any questions or concerns. Talk to your doctor or others on your health care team if you have questions. You may request more written information from the Library for Health Information at (614) or

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