People with type 2 diabetes are at risk for hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This is particularly true for those on insulin and oral diabetes pills that stimulate the pancreas to make more insulin. Exercise can also induce hypoglycemia.
Signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Feeling shaky
- Being nervous or anxious
- Sweating, chills and clamminess
- Irritability or impatience
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Feeling sleepy
- Feeling weak or having no energy
- Blurred/impaired vision
- Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks
- Coordination problems, clumsiness
- Nightmares or crying out during sleep
The only way to confirm whether you are experiencing hypoglycemia is to check your blood sugar. Hypoglycemia usually occurs when your blood sugar level drops below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L).
‘15-15 rule’ to treat hypoglycemia
If hypoglycemia is not treated immediately, the brain will be starved of glucose. This may lead to seizures, coma, and very rarely death. To treat hypoglycemia, the American Diabetes Association recommends the “15-15 rule”:
1. Take 15 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate to raise your blood sugar. This may be any of the following:
- Half a cup (15 grams) of juice or regular soda (not diet)
- 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or corn syrup
- Hard candies, jellybeans, or gumdrops (see food label for how many to consume)
- Glucose tablets (available in drugstores and online)
- Glucose gel tubes (available in drugstores and online)
2. After 15 minutes, check your blood sugar again. If it’s still below 70 mg/dL, have another serving of a fast-acting carbohydrate.
3. Repeat these steps until your blood sugar is at least 70 mg/dL. Once your blood sugar is back to normal, eat a meal or snack to make sure it doesn’t fall below 70 mg/dL again.
Talk to your doctor about any episodes of hypoglycemia that you may have experienced. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you avoid low blood sugar in the future.
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