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Hypoglycemia - Low Blood Sugar Symptoms

Hypoglycemia is a condition which is characterized by low blood sugar levels. Read more about it, including what the symptoms of low blood sugar are.
Hypoglycemia, which is also known as low blood sugar, is a condition characterized by the blood glucose, or blood sugar, dropping so low that it cannot provide the energy your body requires for its normal activities. The normal blood sugar levels upon waking, before meals, should be around 70-110 mg/dl, and after meals it should be in the range of 70-140 mg/dl.

Glucose, a type of sugar, is one of the main sources of energy for the body, which is derived chiefly from carbohydrates. Some of the foods rich in carbohydrates are: fruit, cereal, bread, potatoes, rice, and sweets.

After you have a meal, the molecules of glucose are absorbed into the blood, which carries it to the cells, which use it for energy. Insulin, which is a hormone secreted by the isles of Langerhans located in the pancreas, assists glucose entering the cells. If you consume more glucose than your body requires at that time, the extra glucose will be stored by the body in the muscles and liver as glycogen. This helps the body to utilize the stored glucose whenever it requires energy. Part of the extra glucose is also turned into fat and deposited in fat cells.

When there is a decrease in the blood glucose levels, the pancreas secretes another hormone, glucagon, which acts as a signal to the liver for the glycogen to be broken up in order to release glucose, resulting in the blood glucose rising to a normal level. In people who have diabetes, there is an impairment of this process of the glucagon response when the body experiences hypoglycemia, which makes it more difficult for the glucose level to get back to the normal range.

Although hypoglycemia is usually linked with diabetes, there are various types of conditions, which are generally rare, that can cause it even in those who do not have diabetes. Hypoglycemia is not a disease by itself, but its presence is an indication of a problematic health condition.

If hypoglycemia occurs without diabetes, it can be due to the following causes: certain disorders that lead to the production of excessive insulin in the body; hormonal problems; serious illnesses like heart, liver, or kidney failure; certain types of cancers; alcohol; and certain types of medications.

While hypoglycemia usually occurs when the body is in a state of fasting, occasionally, it can also take place after meals, because of the body producing more insulin than is required. This kind of hypoglycemia is known as postprandial or reactive hypoglycemia.

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar:

The brain requires being supplied glucose at a steady rate, since it does not either manufacture or store its own supply of energy. Hence, when the body experiences low blood sugar levels, leading to hypoglycemia, it can have the following effects on the brain.
  • Abnormalities in behavior or confusion, or a combination of the two, resulting in an inability of carrying out everyday tasks.
  • Impairment of vision, causing blurring of vision or double vision.
  • Seizures, rarely.
  • Losing consciousness, rarely.
  • Coma, rarely.
Some of the other low blood sugar symptoms are:
  • Palpitations in the heart
  • Hunger
  • Paleness
  • Anxiety
  • Tremor
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Goose bumps
  • Numbness of the tongue and lips
The above symptoms are not particular to hypoglycemia, and could be due to other causes. The only way to ascertain that it is indeed hypoglycemia that is the root of these symptoms is to get your blood tested for its blood sugar level.
By Rita Putatunda
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