Recognizing 10 Early Warning Signs of Low Blood Sugar
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a condition that can lead to both immediate and long-term complications. Familiarize yourself with the signs of low blood sugar to take prompt action when you notice them.
For individuals managing low blood sugar, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is of utmost importance. While much attention is rightfully given to managing high blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia, it is equally crucial to be vigilant about low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. Erin Palinski-Wade, a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist in Sparta, New Jersey, defines hypoglycemia as a state where blood glucose (sugar in the blood) drops to a level insufficient to support normal bodily functions. In most cases, this threshold is defined as a blood sugar level at or below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
According to research findings, individuals with type 2, particularly those using insulin, are at higher risk of experiencing low blood sugar. On average, they encounter approximately 19 mild to moderate episodes of hypoglycemia annually, with nearly one severe episode per year. This underlines the significance of understanding and managing low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can lead to immediate complications such as confusion, dizziness, and, in severe cases, seizures, coma, or even death, as noted by the American Diabetes Association(ADA).
Hypoglycemia typically results from factors like an excessive insulin dose or changes in diet and exercise routines, according to Harvard Health Publishing. To prevent hypoglycemia and its potential hazards, it is essential to monitor blood sugar levels regularly and respond promptly when low blood sugar is detected, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
Here are ten common symptoms that may indicate a drop in blood sugar levels:
1. Intense Hunger
Sudden, unexplained hunger can be a sign of a blood sugar drop. Managing your carbohydrate intake and understanding various types of food sources can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
2. Feelings of Anxiety
Low glucose levels trigger the release of hormones like epinephrine and cortisol, prompting the liver to release more sugar into the bloodstream. This can lead to anxiety, accompanied by symptoms like shakiness, sweating, and rapid heartbeats.
3. Sleep Disturbances
Nocturnal hypoglycemia, responsible for around half of all low blood sugar incidents, can disrupt sleep patterns. Symptoms include night sweats, nightmares, sudden awakenings with cries, and feelings of unease upon waking. A bedtime snack can help mitigate these disturbances.
4. Tremors and Shakes
Shakiness often occurs when the autonomic nervous system becomes activated during hypoglycemia.
5. Emotional Swings
Mood swings and unusual emotional outbursts, like irritability, stubbornness, or feelings of depression, can be neurological symptoms of hypoglycemia.
6. Excessive Sweating
Sweating is frequently one of the earliest signs of low blood sugar and is associated with an increase in adrenaline as glucose levels decline.
As the brain attempts to conserve energy during low blood sugar, lightheadedness may occur due to reduced blood flow to the brain. If experienced, treat hypoglycemia with fast-acting carbohydrates and consider lying down. If lightheadedness persists for more than 15 minutes, seek medical attention.
8. Difficulty Concentrating
The brain relies on glucose for energy, so a drop in blood sugar can impair cognitive function, making it challenging to concentrate.
9. Vision Issues
Sudden vision problems may indicate low blood sugar levels. Blurred vision, dimness in vision, and black spots were reported as common eye-related symptoms in people with low blood sugar.
10. Slurred Speech and Clumsiness
Severely low blood sugar levels, below 40 mg/dL, can result in slurred speech and clumsiness, resembling the effects of alcohol consumption.
Recognizing these warning signs of low blood sugar is crucial for individuals to respond promptly and effectively, minimizing potential complications. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance on managing your blood sugar levels and avoiding hypoglycemia.