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What is hypoglycemia and how to effectively treat it

by IBD Medical on January 09, 2023


Hypoglycaemia, or a "hypo", is an abnormally low level of glucose in our blood (less than four millimoles per litre).

When our glucose levels are too low, our body doesn't have enough energy to carry out its activities. Hypoglycemia is most commonly associated with both type 1 & 2 diabetes insulin dependents 

Why do hypos happen?

Understanding why we get hypos can help us minimize them from happening. We don’t always know why hypos happen, but some things will make them more likely occur.  These might include:


  • missing or delaying a meal 
  • not having enough carbs in our last meal
  • doing a lot of exercise without having extra carbohydrate or without reducing our insulin dose (if you take insulin)
  • taking more insulin (or certain diabetes medication) than needed
  • drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Insulin and some other diabetes medications can make us more likely to have a hypo. 

A hypo can happen quickly. So it’s important that we know what the signs are and that we know how to treat a hypo if we have one. 


Symptoms of a low blood sugar level (Hypo)

A low blood sugar level can affect each of us differently. It is important that each of us learn how it makes us feel, although our symptoms may change over time.
Early signs of a low blood sugar level include:


  • sweating
  • feeling tired
  • dizziness
  • feeling hungry
  • tingling lips
  • feeling shaky or trembling
  • a fast or pounding heartbeat
  • becoming easily irritated, tearful, anxious or moody
  • turning pale

If a low blood sugar level is not treated, we may get other symptoms, such as:
  • weakness
  • blurred vision
  • confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • unusual behaviour, slurred speech or clumsiness (like being drunk)
  • feeling sleepy
  • seizures or fits
  • collapsing or passing out

A low blood sugar level can also happen while we are sleeping. This may cause us to wake up during the night or cause headaches, tiredness or damp sheets (from sweat) in the morning.

How to treat hypoglycaemia?

If we have hypoglycemia symptoms, we should do the following: 


  • Eat or drink 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates. 
These are sugary foods or drinks with no protein or fat that are easily converted to sugar in the body. Try glucose tablets or gel, fruit juice, honey, or sugary candy. 
  • We should test our blood sugar again after 10 to 15 minutes to check it is back above 4mmol/l. 
If it is still less than 4, we should have some more fast-acting carbohydrate and retest after 10 minutes.
  • After a hypo, we may need to eat or drink a bit more. This is to stop our sugar levels going down again.
We can try to eat 15 to 20g of a slower-acting carbohydrate. This could be a:
  • sandwich
  • piece of fruit
  • bowl of cereal
  • glass of milk.

Or it could be your next meal, if it’s due.

If you’re feeling too drowsy or confused to eat or drink, ask someone to help you.
If we continue to have low blood sugar episodes, we should share our blood sugar, insulin, physical activity, and food logs with our doctor. They may be able to identify patterns and help prevent lows by adjusting the timing and amount of your insulin, physical activity, and meals. 

To make food logs more seamless and easier to document, check out our smart nutrition scale that comes with an integrated food diary app. 

Remember, it's important to personalise your routine based on your specific needs and consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for individualised advice on managing diabetes.
The content of this Website or Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website or Blog.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 (in the US) or 000 (in Australia) immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care.
by Glucology on January 24, 2023

Hi Jill, thanks for taking your time to share your situation with us :) This can be rough and we hope you know it’s very valid and normal to feel scared in this situation. We definitely highly recommend to ask for advice from your personal health care profession. In the meantime, we do have some resources and stories from our community members, where they share about their diabetes fears and some inspiring and empowering tips to help you process and get through the fears a bit better. Head on over to our videos category on our Diabetes 101 Hub Platform – hope they help you out :)

by Glucology on January 24, 2023

Thanks for asking Christine! It can happen but this answer is not definitive :) We’d definitely recommend asking your health profession on this

by Glucology on January 24, 2023

Hi Roma,
Thanks for taking the time to read our article! That’s a good question! Symptoms of hyper can vary depending on the situation and person’s circumstances, which can be hard to state here. But stay tuned we’ll make sure to write an article on this in the near future to help spread the education and information :)

by Roma Hines on January 24, 2023

Very informative, thank you.
But what are the symptoms of the reverse.? i.e. a hyper.

by Christine on January 24, 2023

Can you have hypos if not taking any medication?

by Jill Dyson on January 24, 2023

I have had Type 2 diabetes for 18 years and always managed it well. Took Metformin for about 14 years then was put on Trajentamet. However I am now on Gliclazide (as well as my previous dose of Trajentamet). I have started having hypos (down to 3) between 1 and 3am since I was put onto Gliclacide. I am not aware of them unless I am wearing a sensor for continuous monitoring. My Endocrinologist said to reduce the dose on the days I exercise. I walk every day (½ hr) and have reduced the dose from 1 tablet daily gradually down to ½ tablet every 3rd day but it is still happening. I think after 18 years of keeping my carbs down I need to see a dietician for guidance about increasing my carbs with this medication. I have made an extra appointment with my GP tomorrow to discuss with her. I am scared about the hypos and what feels like a lack of control after all these years of managing my diabetes well. Do you have any comment or advice?
Thanks, Jill


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