Diabetes & Blood Sugar

Diabetes and Extremes of Blood Sugar

Low Blood Sugar, Hypoglycemia

Low blood sugar can occur with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and with gestational diabetes. This can happen for a number of reasons. The most common one is that you are taking medication, injectable or oral, that lowers the blood sugar, but the food eaten did not raise the blood sugar as much as expected.  If you ate very little or exercised very much and took blood sugar lowering medication, you may find the circulating blood sugar drops to a seriously low level.

Symptoms of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia include fatigue, drowsiness, headaches, sweating, irritable behavior, confusion and even seizures.  Sometimes a person with low blood sugar recognizes the symptoms because they become irritable and angry and have a headache, and other times a person does not recognize the symptoms at all and becomes very drowsy and unarousable.  It’s important to recognize your own symptoms of low blood sugar and check the blood glucose early in the process.  Raising the blood sugar quickly with food, orange juice, hard candies and other immediately available sources of fuel for your body will bring the blood sugar back up and avoid a serious health risk.

High Blood Sugar, Hyperglycemia

Blood sugar can rise because a person with diabetes has not taken the prescribed medication necessary to control blood sugar or has eaten or drunk more calories and sugar than was expected.  Often times a person will have very little symptoms until the blood sugar becomes dangerously high.  But symptoms can include blurred vision, drowsiness, frequent urination and thirst.  There are two special conditions, which are emergencies and reasons for hospital admission for diabetic patients who have developed dangerous hyperglycemia.

  • Diabetic Ketoacidosis – This condition occurs when the blood sugar is elevated and the metabolism of fat stores produce a byproduct called ketones. Often times a person experiencing this condition will feel generally ill with nausea, vomiting, body aches and pains and will sometimes have a sweet or fruity odor to their breath.
  • Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemia or Hyperosmolar Coma – This condition occurs when the blood sugar becomes dangerously high and leads to confusion, drowsiness, dry mouth and a sense of dehydration.  It progresses to coma and can lead to brain and tissue damage and requires hospitalization with correction of the blood sugar.