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Article by Dr. Sheri Colberg, Phd, FACSM

 

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TYPE 2 DIABETES AND HYPOGLYCEMIA (LOW BLOOD SUGAR/INSULIN SHOCK)


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People with type 2 diabetes are especially at risk for hypoglycemia, which is also called low blood sugar or insulin shock.

Hypoglycemia develops if blood glucose levels fall below normal. This may be caused by insufficient intake of food, too much exercise or excessive alcohol intake.

One of the most common causes of hypoglycemia is injecting too much insulin. People with diabetes who inject insulin are at high risk of developing hypoglycemia. But anyone with diabetes using hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) medications needs to watch for signs of hypoglycemia.

Usually the condition is manageable, though occasionally it can be severe or even life-threatening, particularly if the victim fails to recognize the symptoms.

Nurse listening to a patient.Managing diabetes as effectively as possible to increase insulin sensitivity can greatly reduce the risk of hypoglycemia. It is also essential to manage exercise and food intake responsibly, as directed by your doctor.

Mild hypoglycemia is common among people with type 2 diabetes. Severe episodes are rare, even among those who are taking insulin. However, everyone who is controlling glucose levels should be aware of warning symptoms. Persons with diabetes at highest risk for severe hypoglycemia are those who have a previous history of the disorder or those who develop "hypoglycemia unawareness." (1)

This latter condition occurs when people become insensitive to hypoglycemic symptoms. In such cases, hypoglycemia appears without warning, and can escalate to a severe level.

Even a single recent episode of hypoglycemia may make it more difficult to detect the next episode. But with vigilant monitoring and by rigorously avoiding low blood glucose levels, people with diabetes can often regain the ability to sense the symptoms. It is important to note that even very careful testing may fail to detect a problem. Thos with diabetes are particularly vulnerable to hypoglycemia during sleep.

Mild symptoms usually occur at moderately low and easily correctable levels of blood glucose. They include sweating, trembling, hunger and rapid heartbeat.

Severely low blood glucose levels can also precipitate neurological symptoms such as confusion, weakness, disorientation and aggressiveness. In rare, worst-case scenarios, hypoglycemia can lead to coma, seizure and death.

Preventive Measures: the following tips may help avoid hypoglycemia or prepare for attacks. Ask your healthcare practitioner for more information.

Woman in a hospital bed listening as a doctor talks with the nurses standing next to the bed.Bedtime snacks may be helpful, but consult with your physician or dietician first.

People who intensively control their blood sugar should monitor blood levels as often as possible, four times or more per day. This is particularly important for persons with diabetes with hypoglycemia unawareness.

In adults, it is also particularly critical to monitor blood glucose levels before driving, when hypoglycemia can make being behind a wheel very hazardous.

Family and friends should be aware of the symptoms of hypoglycemia and be prepared. If the victim is helpless (but not unconscious), doctors say family or friends should administer three to five pieces of hard candy, two to three packets of sugar, half a cup (four ounces) of fruit juice or a commercially-available glucose solution for individuals with diabetes.

If there is inadequate response within 15 minutes, additional oral sugar should be provided or the victim should receive emergency medical treatment including the intravenous administration of glucose.

Family members and friends can learn to inject glucagon, a hormone, which, in contrast to insulin, raises blood glucose.

The Insulite Diabetes Advanced Management System is a scientific breakthrough that could improve your health by increasing the insulin sensitivity of your cells. Greater sensitivity can result in a huge improvement in the efficient processing of glucose and insulin, which may reduce the amount of insulin you require to manage your diabetes.

By lowering insulin intake and dependency through more effective management of your diabetes, you are likely to experience better long-term health and a greater sense of well being. You may also reduce your risk of developing such serious, insulin imbalance-linked complications as failing eyesight, kidney and heart disease and the need for amputation.

(1) Cryer, PE. Chapter 21: Hypoglycemia in diabetes: pathophysiological mechanisms and diurnal variation. Prog Brain Res. 2006;153:361-5.

 

 

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