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People with diabetes use a blood glucose monitor to check blood sugar levels.
Blood glucose, or blood sugar, is the main fuel your brain uses. Your brain cannot store glucose. When it senses a severe drop in its main fuel supply, your brain responds with confusion, nervousness and inability to focus and think. This disorientation progresses to symptoms such as low body temperature, seizures, convulsions, loss of consciousness and coma. Without immediate medical attention for severe hypoglycemia, you risk permanent neurological damage. While hypoglycemia is more common among diabetics, it also affects people without this disease.
Effects of Severe Hypoglycemia
Without emergency treatment, prolonged severe hypoglycemia results in permanent brain damage and irreversible cardiac problems, especially if you already have heart disease. Hypoglycemia causes weakness, tremors, rapid heartbeat and dizziness. Serious injuries can result from loss of consciousness while driving or falling down stairs, according to Joslin Diabetes Center. Drug-induced hypoglycemia is often responsible for falls that cause serious injuries in the elderly who take diabetes medications, such as chlorpropamide, reports the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy. Because many health conditions have similar symptoms, do not ignore recurring symptoms of hypoglycemia, whether mild or severe, as they can be a sign of a serious, undiagnosed medical condition.
Food, Exercise and Medications Affect Blood-Sugar Levels
Too little food, strenuous exercise that burns large amounts of sugar, caffeine or excessive alcohol consumption can cause hypoglycemia. Medications prescribed to treat heart problems or high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme agents, also called ACE inhibitors, may mask symptoms of low blood sugar, reports the University of Michigan Health System. Medications, such as quinolones, antibiotics prescribed to treat urinary tract infections, can cause hypoglycemia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Diseases That Cause Hypoglycemia
Diseases that cause your pancreas, liver, kidneys or other organs to malfunction, or glandular problems, such as underactive thyroid, may also cause a drop in blood-sugar levels. Other causes of hypoglycemia include inherited metabolic abnormalities and autoimmune disorders.
Normal Blood Sugar Levels
The Joslin Diabetes Center provides the following blood glucose ranges for people with diabetes. Before breakfast, the blood glucose range for diabetics is 70 to 130 milligrams per deciliter. But your doctor will determine the best individual blood-glucose ranges for you based on your overall health condition. Severe hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar drops below 35 to 40 milligrams per deciliter. Without medical treatment, severe hypoglycemia can be fatal.