When blood sugar is too low, it means that there is not enough glucose in the blood. The body needs that glucose for energy in order to function. However, without that energy, the body begins to respond in a particular way.
As a result, there are three aspects to what happens when blood sugar is low. You might want to know what happens to you and your experience (your symptoms); what happens to the body; and what happens in terms of treatment.
And you know what? We’ve got the information right here!
When is Blood Sugar too low?
First, it’s important to establish what low blood sugar means. It’s actually normal for blood sugar levels to rise and fall by small amounts throughout the day. So, when blood sugar levels go low, it’s not always something to be concerned about.
It only needs to be addressed when blood sugar levels are too low. Blood sugar that is too low is often a result of either too much insulin, increased insulin sensitivity, eating too little, or for other reasons which you can read about on What Causes Blood Sugar to drop Rapidly?.
In general, for people with diabetes, when blood sugar is too low, it is termed hypoglycemia. This is defined as having blood sugar levels below 70 mg/dL, according to the American Diabetes Association, or below 4.0 mmol/L, according to Diabetes.co.uk.
This means that you should aim to have blood sugar within your target ranges – the normal ranges for people with diabetes can be adjusted through trial and error ranges, and with the help of a doctor or nurse.
By checking blood sugar levels regularly – with a blood glucose monitor or continuous glucose monitor – you’ll know if you’re within your target ranges.
What Happens when Blood Sugar is low?: the Symptoms
With hypoglycemia, there are certain symptoms that a person may experience. Each person can experience hypoglycemia differently, but at least a few of the following symptoms are common:
- Nausea and/or dizziness
- Feeling shaky
- Feeling upset or irritable
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fast heartbeat
A hypo can also occur in the midst of diabetes and sleep: you may wake feeling confused or sweaty, or feeling as if you’ve slept poorly.
What Happens when Blood Sugar is low?: the body
The body has its own mechanism for trying to raise blood sugar levels: the hormone epinephrine – more commonly called adrenaline. It’s adrenaline’s job to tell the body to release its store of glucose.
The effect of adrenaline is what results in some of the hypoglycemia symptoms (hunger, feeling shaky, sweating). It’s the body’s way of telling you that it wants you to eat more, so that it can have more energy.
If blood sugar levels continue to fall, the body runs out of energy for doing what it needs to do. The brain needs glucose, which is why symptoms such as headaches, confusion, or difficulty concentrating occur without that glucose.
If left untreated for a long time, the body will begin to shut down, leading to a coma. The good news is that hypoglycemia is easily and swiftly treated – even in more severe cases. (In more severe cases, only a trained person should administer treatment – often in the form of a glucagon injection.)
What to do when Blood Sugar is low
If blood sugar is too low, then the body needs more glucose. So, the way to treat hypoglycemia is by consuming carbs, which then become glucose in the blood.
The amount of carbs you need will depend on the situation and person – but a standard amount to take is 15 grams of carbs. However, when using Hedia’s carb calculator, you can receive a recommendation for the carb amount that is tailored to your needs.
Pretty straightforward, right? Find out more about how to fix low blood sugar here!
Hypoglycemia can be a fairly unpleasant experience, and people respond differently to it. Some may even go to great lengths – at detriment to themselves – to avoid having low blood sugar.
So, while low blood sugar may be straightforward to treat physically, the psychological side of it doesn’t always go away so easily. To read more about hypo anxiety, and get tips on how to reduce stress, have a look at Stress and Diabetes.
So that’s what Happens
By understanding what happens when blood sugar is low, you will hopefully understand that a hypo has a fairly simple solution.
Some of the effects on the body may even seem daunting, but as long as you’re keeping track of blood sugar levels, then it shouldn’t be a problem.
Obviously, this is easier said than done sometimes. Instead, try letting Hedia do some of the work. Hedia can remind you to check your blood sugar, while also keeping track of the different readings.
And, of course – in case of low blood sugar, or if Hedia can see that you have too much insulin on board – Hedia will recommend carb intake to keep you in range. Give it a whirl for free at the App Store or Google Play!
Related posts: FAQ: What Causes Blood Sugar to drop Rapidly?