When the level of glucose or blood sugar falls below 50 mg per 100 ml of blood, it is termed as hypoglycemia or in simple language, low blood sugar. It is not a separate disease as such, but hypoglycemia causes are several. It majorly arises out of two reasons either occuring separately or in tandem.
Firstly, when the symptoms are related to the nervous system, the underlying cause might be that the brain is not receiving sufficient glucose which is the primary energy food to sustain the normal activity of its cells. These symptoms may include mental confusion and worry, hallucinations, pointless activity, convulsions, and eventually unconsciousness.
Secondly, there might be other symptoms resulting from the body’s attempt to compensate for lack of blood sugar by producing an emergency supply of epinephrine. These include sweating, pallor, chilliness, trembling, hunger, weakness, and palpitation.
In both cases, the symptoms occur due to a prominent lack of blood sugar. The major hypoglycemia causes can be traced to situations as described below:
- Hypoglycemia may result from an overdose of insulin. Insulin accelerates the body’s use of blood sugar. An overdose, consequently reduces the amount of sugar in the blood. Hypoglycemia may result from excessive use of “hypoglycemic agents” (insulin substitutes)
- Failure to eat the usual amount of food after taking insulin may cause hypoglycemia. In a diabetic, insulin must be carefully balanced against the amount of food eaten in order to maintain the right blood sugar level. When a diabetic does not eat the necessary amount of food after taking insulin, the effect is like that of an overdose of insulin – blood sugar is reduced
- Hypoglycemia may result from excessive exercise. If the body’s sources for refilling blood sugar are exhausted and hence it fails to get adequate levels, even momentarily, hypoglycemia may result. A person with diabetes mellitus is particularly susceptible to this
- Hypoglycemia may result from an overproduction of insulin, as in a type of tumor of the pancreas, in which the insulin-producing tissue becomes over active
- It may occur in cases of liver disease where the blood sugar is not stored or released by the liver in a normal manner
- Hypoglycemia may arise in connection with diseases of certain endocrine organs, such as the adrenals and pituitary. Strangely, the “hypo” situation or low blood sugar may occur early in the course of diabetes, much before the usual “hyper” or high blood stage
The consequences of an intense hit of hypoglycemia will differ depending upon whether the patient is in the hospital or must be given emergency treatment elsewhere, and on whether he is able to swallow or has already lost consciousness. In those situations where the low blood sugar situation arises due to disease of the pancreas or liver a physician will have to study the case in order to determine the actual hypoclycemia causes. In extreme circumstances, surgery or other extensive treatment may be required.
In a situation where there is no liver or pancreas disease, reasonable changes in the patient’s diet may correct the inclination to hypoglycemia. In such circumstances, the body’s control mechanism may have become unusually susceptible to food containing carbohydrates, and so might have produced too much insulin. A diet which is low in carbohydrates and high in protein and fats should be adopted enabling the person to derive the necessary calories for his energy needs without provoking the excess production of insulin.