Hypoglycemia - Overview
Insulin shock; Low blood sugar
Definition of Hypoglycemia:
Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too low.
Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low. Blood sugar at or below this level can harm you.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
Hypoglycemia occurs when:
- Your body's sugar (glucose) is used up too quickly
- Glucose is released into the bloodstream too slowly
- Too much insulin is released into the bloodstream
Insulin is a hormone that reduces blood sugar. It is produced by the pancreas in response to increased glucose levels in the blood.
The most common causes of low blood sugar in people with diabetes are:
- Taking your insulin or diabetes medicine at the wrong time
- Taking too much insulin or diabetes medicine by mistake
- Not eating enough during meals or snacks after you have taken insulin or diabetes medicine
- Skipping meals
- Waiting to eat your meals
- Exercising more or at a different time than usual
- Drinking alcohol
If you have diabetes and are taking any of the following diabetes medications, you have a risk for low blood sugar:
- Chlorpropamide (Diabinese), tolazamide (Tolinase), acetohexamide (Dymelor), glipizide (Glucotrol), or tolbutamide (Orinase)
- Glyburide (Micronase), glimepiride (Amaryl), repaglinide (Prandin), nateglinide (Starlix), and mitiglinide) -- the risk with these drugs is lower, but still possible
A newborn's blood sugar can become low. Babies who are born to mothers with diabetes may have severe drops in blood sugar.
Hypoglycemia in people who do not have diabetes may be caused by:
- Reviewed last on: 6/28/2011
- Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes--2011. Diabetes Care. 2011;34 Supl 1:S11-S61.
Cryer PE. Glucose homeostasis and hypoglycemia. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 33.
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