Hypoglycaemia occurs when blood sugar levels drop below 70 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dl). Severe hypoglycaemia can be life-threatening if a person does not receive treatment. Treatments focus on returning blood sugar to safe levels.
However, people who do not have diabetes can also experience hypoglycaemia.
Causes of hypoglycaemia without diabetes
Reactive hypoglycaemia can be an early sign of diabetes.
Other health issues can also cause hypoglycaemia, such as:
Drinking too much alcohol
When a person’s blood sugar levels are low, the pancreas releases a hormone called glucagon.
Drinking a lot of alcohol can make it difficult for the liver to function. It may no longer be able to release glucose back into the bloodstream, which can cause temporary hypoglycaemia.
Taking another person’s diabetes medication can cause hypoglycaemia.
Hypoglycaemia can also be a side effect of:
- Malaria medication
- Certain antibiotics
- Certain pneumonia medications
Some groups have an increased risk of medication-induced hypoglycaemia, including children and people with kidney failure.
A person with this eating disorder may not be consuming enough food for their body to produce sufficient glucose.
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the liver. Having hepatitis can prevent the liver from working properly.
Adrenal or pituitary gland disorders
Problems with the pituitary gland or adrenal glands can cause hypoglycaemia as these parts of the body affect the hormones that control glucose production.
The kidneys help the body process medication and excrete waste.
If a person has a problem with their kidneys, medication can build up in their bloodstream. This type of build-up can change blood sugar levels.
Pancreatic tumours are rare, but having one can lead to hypoglycaemia.
When a person has hypoglycaemia, they may feel:
- Unable to concentrate
- Unable to focus their eyes
A person with hypoglycaemia may develop a headache or pass out (lose consciousness).
If a person has hypoglycaemia often, they may stop experiencing symptoms. This is called hypoglycaemia unawareness.
To diagnose hypoglycaemia, a doctor first asks a person about their symptoms. If the doctor suspects hypoglycaemia, they may perform a blood test.
Blood sugar levels below 70 mg/dl can indicate hypoglycaemia.
However, everyone has a different base blood sugar level, and the measurement that determines hypoglycaemia can vary.
According to research from 2014, the best way to treat mild hypoglycaemia is to:
- Take 15 grams of glucose
- Wait for 15 minutes
- Measure blood glucose levels again
- Repeat this treatment if hypoglycaemia persists
There are many ways to receive glucose, including:
- Taking a glucose tablet
- Injecting glucose
- Drinking fruit juice
- Eating carbohydrates
- Eating slow-release carbohydrates may help sustain blood sugar levels.
Non-diabetic hypoglycaemia diet
A non-diabetic hypoglycaemia diet can help keep blood sugar levels balanced. The following tips can help to prevent hypoglycaemia:
- Eating small meals regularly, rather than three large meals
- Eating every 3 hours
- Eating a variety of foods, including protein, healthful fats, and fibre
- Avoiding sugary foods
Carrying a snack to eat at the first sign of hypoglycaemia can prevent blood sugar levels from dipping too low.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent hypoglycaemia is to identify and treat the underlying cause.
Source: Medical News Today