Can a person have hypoglycaemia without diabetes?

Hypoglycaemia occurs when blood sugar levels fall dangerously low. It is more common in people with diabetes, but it can affect others

Image Source: Google
Image Source: Google

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.

Blood sugar/ glucose, is the body’s primary source of energy. When levels fall too low, the body does not have enough energy to function fully.

Insulin helps the body’s cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. A person with diabetes may take insulin shots because their body is resistant to insulin or because it does not produce enough.

For diabetics, taking too much insulin can cause blood sugar levels to drop too low. Not eating enough or exercising too much after taking insulin can have the same effect.

However, people who do not have diabetes can also experience hypoglycaemia.

Causes of hypoglycaemia without diabetes

In people without diabetes, hypoglycaemia can result from the body producing too much insulin after a meal, causing blood sugar levels to drop. This is called reactive hypoglycaemia.

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.

Glucagon tells the liver to break down stored energy. The liver then releases glucose back into the bloodstream to normalise blood sugar levels.

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.

Medication

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.

Anorexia

A person with this eating disorder may not be consuming enough food for their body to produce sufficient glucose.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the liver. Having hepatitis can prevent the liver from working properly.

If the liver cannot produce or release enough glucose, this can cause problems with blood sugar levels and lead to hypoglycaemia.

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.

Kidney problems

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 tumour

Pancreatic tumours are rare, but having one can lead to hypoglycaemia.

Tumours in the pancreas can cause the organ to produce too much insulin. If insulin levels are too high, blood sugar levels will drop.

Symptoms

When a person has hypoglycaemia, they may feel:

  • Shaky
  • Dizzy
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Unable to focus their eyes
  • Confused
  • Moody
  • Hungry

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.

Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

Treating the underlying cause is the best way to prevent hypoglycaemia in the long term. In the short term, receiving glucose helps blood sugar levels return to normal.

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