Hypoglycemia (Insulin-Reaction)

What is insulin-reaction hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is the term used for when you have too little sugar in your blood. Other terms are "insulin-reaction" or "lows."

How does it occur?

People with diabetes can get hypoglycemia if they take too much blood sugar medication. If you have too much medication in your blood, your blood sugar level will become too low. Some other causes of abnormally low blood sugar levels are:

  • exercising more than usual
  • skipping meals
  • not eating at regular mealtimes
  • eating only part of your meal
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • as a complication of “tight control” of blood sugars.
What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of low blood sugar range from mild to severe. Watch for the following symptoms that result from low blood sugar:

  • mild symptoms
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • hunger
  • clumsiness, shakiness
  • sweating
  • rapid heartbeat
  • moderate symptoms
  • confusion
  • headache
  • poor coordination
  • severe symptoms
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness
  • coma
  • death.

You must watch your blood sugar level closely. If you test your blood sugar regularly, you may be able to treat hypoglycemia before it causes serious symptoms.

Some high blood pressure medicines called hide the symptoms of hypoglycemia. If you are taking medicine for high blood pressure, talk to your health care provider about this.

You should know the difference between the symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). High blood sugar doesn't always cause symptoms, but when it does the symptoms may include blurry vision, extreme thirst, and a lot of urination.

How is it treated?

Always carry some form of sugar and drink or eat it as soon as you have any symptoms of hypoglycemia. If possible, check your blood sugar first. This will help your health care provider determine the best management of your sugar levels.

If you have mild or moderate hypoglycemia:

  • The following amounts and types of foods will bring your blood sugar level up:
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of raisins
  • 2 large or 6 small sugar cubes in water
  • 4 to 6 ounces of regular cola
  • 1/3 to 1/2 a tube (30 grams) of glucose in gel form (such as InstaGel or MonGel) or cake icing.
  • 1 tablespoon of molasses, corn syrup, or honey.
  • If you still have symptoms after eating or drinking one of the foods listed above, you may need to eat or drink another portion.
  • If you are about to eat a meal, eat the fruit or drink the juice first and then eat the rest of your meal.

If you have severe hypoglycemia that is causing seizures or unconsciousness, someone should call 911 for emergency treatment. Your blood sugar level will be checked and you may be given an injection. You may need to go to the hospital so your health care provider can watch your reaction to treatment.

How long will the effects last?

The effects of low blood sugar will continue and worsen until your blood sugar level is restored to normal. You will need to take special care the rest of your life to keep your blood sugar at the proper level.

How can I prevent insulin-reaction hypoglycemia?

You can help prevent hypoglycemia by following these guidelines:

  • Keep your blood sugar in the normal range. Check your blood sugar level regularly and whenever you have any of the symptoms of hypoglycemia. Know when to check your blood sugar and when to call for help.
  • Know what causes hypoglycemia.
  • Carry sugar or hard candy to eat if your blood sugar gets too low.
  • Wear a medical ID bracelet or carry a card that says you are diabetic.
  • Tell a friend, coworker, or family member how to give you an injection.
  • Eat a full meal at regular mealtimes. Do not skip meals or eat partial meals.
  • Talk to your doctor about proper snacks before and after exercising.
  • Check your blood sugar more often when you are exercising more or eating less, or when you have been sick.

Developed by Phyllis G. Cooper, R.N., M.N., and iMcKesson Clinical Reference Products.
Published by iMcKesson Clinical Reference Products.
Copyright © 1991-2000 iMcKesson LLC. All rights reserved.

Adapted from content provided by iMcKesson, LLC
Review Date: 6/7/01