Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is common among diabetics, and it can occur even when you're carefully managing your diabetes. Hypoglycemia occurs when the amount of blood glucose (sugar in the blood) drops too low to sustain normal functioning. This drop can cause both short- and long-term complications, so it's crucial to monitor your glucose levels and treat hypoglycemia as soon as you're aware of it. Pay attention to these telltale signs of low blood sugar and do your best to keep your glucose under control:
1. Ravenous hunger. If you've already eaten but still aren't satisfied, or if you suddenly, inexplicably feel as if you're starving, your body is signaling that it needs more glucose — preferably from a carbohydrate-rich food source, like raisins, fruit juice, or non-diet soda.
2. Feelings of anxiety. When glucose levels fall too low, your body tells the adrenal glands to release the hormone ephinephrine (also called adrenaline), which signals the liver to make more sugar. The excess ephinephrine creates an "adrenaline rush," which can make you feel anxious.
3. Restless nights. Nocturnal hypoglycemia, which is very common, can cause a number of sleep disturbances. Symptoms include night sweats, nightmares, episodes of waking suddenly and crying out, and feelings of unrest and confusion upon waking. A snack before bed can reduce the frequency and severity of sleep disturbances.
4. Shakes and tremors. The central nervous system starts to malfunction when glucose levels are off balance, and it releases catecholamines, chemicals that encourage glucose production and produce these symptoms.
5. Emotional instability. One of the neurological symptoms of hypoglycemia is mood swings and sudden emotional episodes not typical of your normal behavior, such as irrational outbursts, random or hysterical crying, uncontrollable anger, and a strong desire to be left alone.
6. Sweating. This symptom is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (the part of the central nervous system that governs the skin, among other things) and is usually one of the first signs of hypoglycemia. The excessive perspiration comes on without warning, regardless of how warm or cold the external temperature may be.
7. Dizziness and light-headedness. If you experience these common symptoms of hypoglycemia, heed them and treat the hypoglycemia quickly. Dropping blood sugar levels can also cause you to faint, so if you feel yourself start to swoon, sit or lie down immediately to avoid injuring yourself.
8. Wandering thoughts. Because the brain is especially sensitive to a drop in glucose, you may experience a sense of confusion and an inability to concentrate on one thing at a time.
9. Vision problems. If your vision suddenly blurs or you see double, a drop in blood sugar may be to blame.
10. Slurred speech. Your sugar-starved brain may not allow you to detect a change in how you sound, but others will notice a difference. To someone else, you may sound as though you've had a few too many cocktails — even though you haven't touched a drop.
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