What is Low Blood Sugar?

The body uses food as an energy source or a type of fuel to perform daily functions and complete the processes used for survival. Once ingested, sugars and carbohydrates are broken down and converted into glucose. This breakdown and conversion of this molecule is essential to maintain normal blood sugar levels. If the body is unable to complete this process, symptoms of low blood sugar are experienced in varying degrees and severity.

What is Low Blood Sugar and What are the Symptoms?

Also known as hypoglycemia, low blood sugar is measured using a fasting blood sugar (FBS) or fasting glucose screen. Any detected range below 70 ml/dL is considered abnormal and a low. Even though this is the medically defined range, some individuals will experience symptoms when their sugar levels approach the lower numbers of what is considered normal glucose levels.
Mild symptoms of low blood sugar are fairly benign, and may be dismissed as normal moods or everyday fatigue. The most common warning signs include:

  • Hunger
  • Mild vertigo
  • Irritation
  • Headache
  • Mild nausea

The Importance of Being Diagnosed

Everyone will experience at least one episode of hypoglycemia in their lifetime. However, this does not mean it requires or will call for a professional diagnosis by a healthcare provider. If symptoms repeatedly appear or enter moderate to severe stages immediate evaluation and treatment is required. This will prevent the condition from becoming life threatening, limit neurological damage in severe cases and determine the underlying cause.

Chronic episodes of low blood sugar can indicate the following medical problems:

  • Overmedication or improper balance of insulin type
  • Severe infection
  • Presence of a genetic defect
  • Tumor growth
  • Inadequate function of the adrenal system
  • Kidney and/or liver failure

Early detection of hypoglycemic episodes can lead to early diagnosis of disease and other harmful conditions. Based on this information and additional testing, healthcare providers can set up a treatment and management plan.

Individuals at Increased Risk

In addition to specific medical conditions, there are other factors that increase and individuals risk for developing hypoglycemia. Food poisoning, flu and viruses can impact the ability to eat meals on a regular basis. In these cases, infants and the elderly are the most likely to be affected.

How Dangerous are Low Glucose Levels?

In most cases, low blood sugar can easily be corrected by eating a balanced meal or snack. More severe instances causing seizures, loss of consciousness and coma require immediate medical attention to be corrected. This condition has the potential to reach critical stages, and if the condition is not reversed it can lead to death.

Even though this low blood sugar levels have the potential to become life threatening, most cases never reach that point. Because everyone will experience this condition at least once in their lifetime, it is not considered an indicator of illness or disease – but can point to overmedication of insulin in diabetics. Individuals with chronic or reoccurring symptoms should schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider, because it can be the result of a more serious condition.

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