Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)

On the eve of world diabetes day, Dr. Manjunath talks about one of the limiting conditions that happen in some of the patients with diabetes, which can strain one’s personal life and relationships with family members, colleagues at work, and friends.  This condition, in medical terms, is known as Hypoglycemia, which in common terms means low blood sugar level. You must have seen or heard of patients who have diabetes, who are on either tablets or insulin for the treatment. And sometimes, their blood sugar would go low for various reasons. Now, this is precisely the situation when instances likely go wrong, and it would be helpful for friends, family members, or partners to know how to recognize this particular situation. 

Let us consider this in a couple of different frameworks now. Let first consider diabetes in the elderly age group: senior citizens. If you have a parent, a relative, or a sibling in the early age group on tablets on insulin for diabetes, how to recognize that this patient has low blood sugar? Common symptoms that you need to look for are unusual tiredness, sweating, and palpitations, which means the heart is racing faster, getting angry, blurring of the vision, and irritability. These people can also get into a fight or an argument very quickly. This is what I would like people to understand. If a person who otherwise has normal behavior starts behaving differently and is on medications for diabetes, this could well be the low blood sugar of hypoglycemia. So please, in this situation, check the blood sugar of the patient if you have a glucose meter. If it is 70 grams or less, that means the patient is running low blood sugar. You can quickly give them something sweet to eat or drink, like a couple of Biscuits, Chocolate or glucose tablets, or a sugary drink, which will lower their blood glucose level in a few minutes and be back to normal.

If it doesn’t do the trick, they will have to get the patient to the hospital for further assessment. 

Now let’s consider another framework, children and children in school. Indeed you have seen young children who have Type 1 Diabetes who, unfortunately, will have to take three or four injections of insulin every day. Now, these kids sometimes may not recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia. And parents, siblings, family members, and teachers at school must recognize hyperglycemia to treat the child appropriately. If your child starts behaving abnormally irrationally or is very tired and withdrawn, please check the blood sugar level, and if it is no less than 70 percent, treat them as I’ve mentioned. It is also important that you appraise the teacher of the class or the headteacher in the school about your child’s condition, particularly when the child is taking part in physical activities like sports, swimming, etc. 

The other framework I’d like to discuss is the life partner. If your life partner, husband or wife, has diabetes, please bear in mind that some of the irrational behavior, angry outbursts could well be due to low blood sugar. Hence, if you tend to argue or if your partner is very angry or is making rational judgments, please check the blood sugar. This might just be as simple as a low blood sugar which might solve the problem. And it is important that we not judge people in this situation and do not run to conclusions. For people who have diabetes under treatment and working, it is very important that some of your close colleagues at work know about your diabetes condition and the treatment you are taking, and that sometimes you might have low blood sugar so that if they find this happening that can help you appropriately. Now every patient has a different set of symptoms when they have hyperglycemia. It is worthwhile to mention these particular symptoms to your colleagues that for example, if I were to get angry, if you want to get irritable, if I were to have a sudden headache, if I were to feel very weak, please check the blood sugar and give me something to eat or drink this really will help you a lot. Another situation I would like to talk about is pregnancy. You know diabetes can happen in pregnant women, and diabetes patients can get pregnant. So the first one is called Gestational diabetes and the second one is pregnancy in diabetes patients. In these situations again, you need to be particularly careful that the patient does not develop low blood sugar because it affects both the mother and the baby. 

So hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, less than 70 milligrams per deciliter, please read the patient. If the symptoms improve well and good, if it doesn’t, check the blood sugar in 15 minutes by a glucose meter, and if it’s not improving, you need to get the patient to the hospital for treatment and assessment. Thank you very much. 

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