Blood sugar, or glucose, is the primary type of sugar found in your blood. The main source of sugars is a carbohydrate available in various foods. Generally, 80 to 99 mg/dl of blood sugar before a meal and 80 to 140 mg/dl after a meal are considered normal.
When blood sugar falls below the normal level, it results in hypoglycemia. This medical condition of low blood sugar can be challenging to diagnose early and manage. However, treatments are available to prevent hypoglycemia from progressing to an emergency.
Despite the common belief that low blood sugar is most commonly related to diabetes, people without diabetes can also experience episodes of hypoglycemia. Read more about the different causes of low blood sugar.
Low Blood Sugar – An Overview
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, occurs when an individual’s blood sugar levels drop below the healthy range. Every individual has different optimal blood sugar levels, varying at different times. However, for most people, low blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL.
The standard classification of low blood sugar is as follows:
Nighttime Low Blood Sugar
Even though low blood sugar can occur at any time of the day, some people experience low levels when asleep. There are various reasons why this may happen, and they include the following:
- Being extremely active during the day
- Physical activity very close to bedtime
- Taking a lot more insulin than necessary
- Consuming alcohol at night time
To avoid this low blood sugar, you must eat regular meals. You may also eat a healthy snack before going to sleep if you feel like you may be at risk for low blood sugar during the night.
Severely Low Blood Sugar
Severely low blood sugar is when your blood sugar falls below 54 mg/dL, making you faint.
There are a variety of symptoms related to a low blood sugar episode. Although these symptoms may start mildly, they tend to progress very fast
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Having a faster heart rate
- Sweating and chills
- Feeling nervous or irritable
- Restless sleep and fatigue
- Tingling sensations or numbness around the mouth
What Causes Low Blood Sugar?
In Diabetes Patients
If you have diabetes, your body may not effectively use insulin to break down the glucose in your bloodstream. As a result, it can cause glucose to build up in the blood, potentially reaching extremely high levels.
You may take insulin or other medicines that lower blood sugar levels to correct this issue. However, these medicines and too much insulin can cause a dip in your blood sugar level, resulting in hypoglycemia.
Low blood sugar can also arise if you eat less than usual, specifically after taking your diabetes medicine or exercising more than you typically do.
Additionally, drinking alcohol while on such medication, especially if you do not eat while drinking, can lead to low blood sugar. That is because while your body tries to eliminate the alcoholic substance, it tends to fail in managing blood sugar levels.
Low blood sugar is much less common in people who do not have diabetes. However, it can occasionally happen due to the following reasons:
A study shows medicines like cefditoren, tigecycline, ertapenem, and clarithromycin are often associated with hypoglycemia.
Moreover, some patients on antibiotics, including fluoroquinolones, experience low blood sugar when taking sulfonylureas or meglitinides.
Too Much Alcohol
Drinking alcohol heavily, especially without eating, can prevent the liver from releasing glucose into the bloodstream. As a result, it would lead to low blood sugar.
Some severe illnesses, such as cirrhosis, kidney disease, heart disease, and more, can lead to low blood sugar.
Kidney disorders, in particular, can keep your body from getting rid of medication, which can affect sugar levels because of the excess drug in your body.
Low blood sugar is evident when your body is not receiving the nutrition it needs, meaning you might not be eating enough food. Eating disorders, wherein individuals continually do not eat, can lead to hypoglycemia.
Although very rare, a tumour in the pancreas, known as insulinoma, can lead to the overproduction of insulin, which can then lead to low blood sugar.
Similarly, other tumours can also lead to an overproduction of substances like insulin causing the same effect. Additionally, unusual cells in the pancreas can produce insulin excessively, leading to hypoglycemia.
Certain adrenal gland and pituitary gland disorders can lead to an imbalance in the hormones that regulate glucose production or metabolism. In these cases, if there is too little glucose in the blood, that would lead to hypoglycemia.
The HealthifyMe Note
For those who have diabetes, diabetes medications may cause occasional low blood sugar occurrence. However, if you do not have diabetes, then having low blood sugar is rare. Such cases probably arise from medications, long-term starvation, hormone deficiencies, excess insulin production, critical medical conditions, or alcohol abuse.
If you’re experiencing hypoglycemia and don’t have diabetes, it’s worth talking to your doctor to see if there’s an underlying cause such as eating disorders, excess insulin production, or hormone deficiency. Once you know the root cause, you and your doctor can work on a treatment plan.