Low Blood Sugar: Symptoms and Causes

Low blood sugar is a serious condition. Find out exactly what it is and discover the symptoms and possible causes.

Low blood sugar, often referred to as hypoglycemia, can affect anyone at any age. However, it is more common among babies and the elderly.

Low blood sugar basically means that you have a low amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood, usually below 60 mg/dL. At a level of 50 mg/dL is thought to affect the functioning of the human brain. This is due to the fact that glucose is the primary source of fuel for the brain. It is also required to fuel the muscles, cells and ensure the correct functioning of hormones, such as insulin, glucagon and epinephrine.

Insulin, as well as glucagon are both manufactured in the pancreas. Insulin is responsible for the absorption of glucose into the blood stream, while glucagon breaks down the stored glucose (glycogen) and releases it into the blood stream. Epinephrine, also known as adrenalin, is manufactured in the adrenal gland and its role is to elevate blood sugar levels, by making the glucose available for the body during stressful periods.

When these systems do not work properly, hypoglycemia may occur. Common causes of hypoglycemia include the use of alcohol, missing meals, infections, kidney or liver failure, tumours such as hepatoma, fibrosarcoma and mesothelioma, medication such as beta-blockers or over-medicating with insulin, among others.

Symptoms include hunger pangs (some kids complain of a gnawing stomachache or “hunger pain”), anxiety, sweating, rapid heart palpitations, and shaking, seizures, headaches, confusion and difficulty thinking. Kids who have nocturnal hypoglycemia may have bouts of crying or nightmares, night sweats (with damp sheets and/or pajamas), and waking up groggy or with a headache.

If you suspect that you or your child have hypoglycemia seek immediate medical attention before the condition worsens.

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