By Faozat Aragbaye
Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels drop below 70milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl). Severe hypoglycaemia can be life threatening, if there is no prompt treatment Hypoglycaemia is not a disease, but it can indicate a health problem.
Hypoglycaemia can occur with several conditions, but it most commonly happens as a reaction to medications, such as insulin. People with diabetes use insulin to treat high blood sugar.
Causes of hypoglycaemia without diabetes
- Reactive hypoglycaemia. In people without diabetes, hypoglycaemia can result from excess production of insulin after a meal, causing blood sugar levels to drop. Reactive hypoglycaemia can be an early sign of diabetes
- Excess alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol consumption can make it difficult for liver to function. The liver may not be able to release glucose back into the bloodstream, when there is hypoglycaemia
- i) A non diabetic person taken diabetic drugs
- ii) A side effect of a:
- a) malaria medication
- b) certain antibiotics
- c) certain pneumonia medications
- Anorexia. A person with eating disorder may not be consuming enough food for the body to produce sufficient glucose.
- Hepatitis. Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the liver. If the liver cannot produce or release enough glucose, this can lead to hypoglycaemia
- Adrenal or pituitary glands disorder. These glands affect the hormones that control glucose production. Problems with the glands can cause hypoglycaemia
- Kidney problems. Problems with the kidneys can lead to build up of medication, which can change the blood sugar and lead to hypoglycaemia.
- Pancreatic tumour.
If blood sugar levels become too low, signs and symptoms may include:
- An irregular heart rhythm
- Pale skin
- Tingling sensation around the mouth
- Crying out during sleep
- Tremor or trembling
As hypoglycaemia worsens, signs and symptoms may include:
- Confusion, abnormal behaviour or both, such as inability to complete routine tasks
- Visual disturbances, such as blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
Diagnosing nondiabetic hypoglycaemia, medical history and laboratory tests are carried out by the doctor.
Blood glucose levels are done especially when there are symptoms. Checking for reactive hypoglycaemia, a test called mixed meal tolerance test (MMTT) is carried out.
For non diabetic hypoglycaemia, treating hypoglycaemia depends on the cause. If a medicine triggers the low blood sugar, there may be need to change the drug or reduce the dosage. If a tumour is the cause, there may be need for surgery.
For a quick fix, a person with hypoglycaemia can eat or drink 15grams of carbohydrates, in form of juice, glucose tablets, or a hard candy.
Eating regular meals that include complex carbohydrates can prevent hypoglycaemia for most people.
Those with a risk of hypoglycaemia due to a medical condition should also:
- i) Follow treatment plan: It is important to follow doctor’s instructions and seek help if symptoms change.
- ii) Checking the blood glucose levels: Those at risk should check their blood sugar levels regularly and know how to recognise the symptoms.
iii) Alcohol: follow the daily alcohol limits that a doctor recommends and avoid drinking alcohol without food
- iv) Taking care when sick: Vomiting, for example, can prevent the body from absorbing enough energy
- v) Letting people know: Those who are prone to low blood sugar should let friends, colleagues, and family members know.
Medical ID: carrying a form of ID or medical bracelet will enable healthcare providers, emergency services, and others to know what to do sooner.