Fast facts about type 1 diabetes
What causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in type 1 diabetes?
Short answer: Low blood glucose can be caused by taking too much insulin, not eating enough, skipping a meal, exercising hard, and drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
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Too little glucose in the blood is called hypoglycemia or low blood glucose. It can be caused by many things.
If you take too much insulin for the meal you have eaten or the glucose in your blood, it will lower your blood glucose level.
If insulin in the body is not balanced with enough food, hypoglycemia will result.
Taking the wrong kind of insulin can also cause low blood glucose. This would happen if you took rapid-acting insulin before sleeping at night.
Exercise acts like insulin, using up glucose. Demanding exercise increases the risk of low blood sugar for up to 24 hours after the exercise has stopped.
Alcohol blocks the liver's release of glucose into the blood.
Most people will develop hypoglycemic symptoms when blood glucose levels are in the mid 60's. Patients may experience nervousness, sweating, intense hunger, trembling, and trouble speaking.
At this level of hypoglycemia, the brain still can access circulating blood glucose for fuel. The symptoms are a warning to the person to raise blood glucose levels before the brain is affected.
If a person does not or cannot respond by eating something to raise blood glucose, the levels of glucose continue to drop. Somewhere in the 50 mg/dl range, most patients are confused, drowsy, and behave strangely. Eventually, as blood glucose drops further, they will go into coma.
By David Hay Jones