Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the amount of sugar in the blood drops to an abnormally low level. It occurs in association with a number of diseases and can affect anyone. "Blood sugar, more formally known as glucose, is the fuel all cells in your body uses for heat and energy" (Hypoglycemia, (Low Blood Sugar)). Glucose is produced by the breakdown of glycogen, a pancreatic hormone that tends to raise sugar in the blood. Glucose enters the cells of your body through insulin. Insulin is what lowers the blood sugar. Glucose also enters the body in many ways, including absorption from the digestive tract and diffusion from the tissue fluids and the liver. "Glucose leaves the blood by diffusion into tissue fluids, by metabolic conversion to glycogen or fat, or by oxidation in the tissues to produce energy" (Hypoglycemia). "Normally, the body maintains a glucose level of about 70-110 milligrams per deciliter of blood" (Recognizing and Treating Hypoglycemia). When these levels drop below normal, it causes many organ systems to malfunction. Low blood sugar levels especially affect the brain because glucose is the brain’s major source of fuel. Sustained hypoglycemia has been know to cause serious brain damage and even death. Hypoglycemia has several different causes. The most common is in people with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes occurs when the body cannot use glucose for fuel because whether the pancreas is not able to make enough insulin or the insulin is not effective. The aim of treatment in diabetes is to lower high blood sugar levels and keep them stable. To do this, most people take insulin shots or oral drugs. Hypoglycemia occurs most often in people with diabetics use too much medication. People who have diabetes often refer to hypoglycemia as an "insulin reaction." "A rare cause of hypoglycemia is an auto immune disease in which the body produces antibodies to insulin" (Marks, 153). The levels of insulin in the blood change abnormally as the pancreas produces high amounts of insulin to deal with the antibodies. This condition may occur in people with or without diabetes. Other causes of hypoglycemia include: excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, prolonged strenuous exercise, kidney failure, cancer, malnutrition, liver disease and sometimes even psychological disturbances. Just because a person may suffer from one of these causes does not man that they have hypoglycemia. The symptoms of hypoglycemia vary from person to person, but often start with being hot and uncomfortable, followed by profuse sweating. Other symptoms include dizziness, weakness, fainting, nervous shaking, extreme hunger, blurred vision, migraines, exhaustion, and the list continues. Many people experience one of more of these symptoms everyday, but frequent reoccurrence are usually signs that a person may have hypoglycemia and should be checked by a physician. "Fasting hypoglycemia, the most serious and uncommon type of hypoglycemia may develop following prolonged starvation and rarely in pregnant women whose bodies cannot adjust to the increased glucose requirements of the fetus" (Cryer, 216). It is more likely to be a sign of pancreatic tumors, liver disease, hormonal deficiencies or other diseases. Fasting hypoglycemia usually occurs when no insulin is available to help the glucose enter cells. Another type, reactive hypoglycemia, occurs within a few hours after eating foods high in glucose. Symptoms include those of extreme fear and anxiety. Although it is hardly ever an indication of a serious disease, reactive hypoglycemia has attracted public attention because of its strongly annoying symptoms. "People who have reactive hypoglycemia are advised to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly" (What is Hypoglycemia?) The diagnosis of a person who is suspected of having hypoglycemia begins with the verification of the condition. Other than evaluating the symptoms, it is most important to observe the blood sugar levels through a series of blood sugar tests. However, measurement of glucose levels does not reveal true hypoglycemia. Blood sugar tests are usually done in the doctor’s office. Glucose levels can be checked at home, using a drop of blood obtained by pricking the finger at the time symptoms occur and a device that reads the blood and displays the level. Home tests are recommended for diabetics because they are often not entirely accurate. "The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), which is commonly used to help diagnose diabetes, is rarely used for diagnosing hypoglycemia because its results are often misleading" (Fast Facts About Hypoglycemia). "Experts now realize that the OGTT can actually trigger hypoglycemic symptoms in people with no signs of the disorder" (What is Hypoglycemia?). The body’s first defense against hypoglycemia is to convert glycogen in the liver to glucose. This means that there must be glycogen in the liver. Glycogen is stored only when there is a good balance of glucose and insulin. It will be available only if control has been good. If control has been poor, then glycogen will not be there when a person needs it. The only truly effective treatment for hypoglycemia is to treat the basic problem. People often follow a special diet, which helps relieve symptoms. Even when blood sugar levels are normal, many people feel better after eating small meals containing carbohydrates such as breads, beans and pastas. However, in a person with diabetes, eating or drinking anything high in sugar such as cokes and candies can quickly relieve hypoglycemia. To avoid reoccurring attacks, hypoglycemics should eat about six small meals a day, rather that the usual three. By doing so, blood sugar levels should remain steadier and symptoms should decrease. The goal of every hypoglycemic should be to stabilize blood sugar levels so that there will be a constant supply of energy in the body (Hypoglycemia, (Low Blood Sugar)). Also, if a person is prone to attacks, they should always carry glucose tablets, sugar cubes or candy with them. Wearing a medic alert bracelet to inform medical personnel of their condition and having identification is also a plus. Hypoglycemia indicates lack of energy and sugar in the body. It can lead to disorders, brain damage, or even as serious as death. Persons who believe that they may be experiencing hypoglycemia should seek medical attention because of such serious effects it has on the body. The study of hypoglycemia has lead to much needed information on other diseases and insights.
Berkow, Robert, "Hypoglycemia, The Merck Manual of Medical Information, New York: Merck and Company, Inc., 1997. Cryer, Philip E., "Glucose Homeostasis and Hypoglycemia, William’s Textbook of Endocrinology, 8th Edition, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1992. "Fast Facts About Hypoglycemia, The Sugar Association, 19 April 2000, *http://www.sugar.org/health/hypoglycemia.html*. "Hypoglycemia, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1993. "Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar), H.E.L.P. The Institute For Body Chemistry, 19 April 2000, *http://www.dynanet.com/~bodychem/hypo.html*. Marks, Vincent, and F. Clifford Rose, Hypoglycemia, 2nd Edition, London: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1981. "Recognizing and Treating Hypoglycemia, Diabetes Well, 19 April 2000, *http://www.diabeteswell.com/library/diabetes/treatment_hypoglycemia.asp*. "What is Hypoglycemia?", Mediconsult Network, 19 April 2000, *http://www.mediconsult.com/mc/mcsite.nsf/condition/diabetes~Educational+Material~JLOO- 47UKVC*. Bibliography Works Cited Berkow, Robert, "Hypoglycemia, The Merck Manual of Medical Information, New York: Merck and Company, Inc., 1997. Cryer, Philip E., "Glucose Homeostasis and Hypoglycemia, William’s Textbook of Endocrinology, 8th Edition, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1992. "Fast Facts About Hypoglycemia, The Sugar Association, 19 April 2000, . "Hypoglycemia, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1993. "Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar), H.E.L.P. The Institute For Body Chemistry, 19 April 2000, . Marks, Vincent, and F. Clifford Rose, Hypoglycemia, 2nd Edition, London: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1981. "Recognizing and Treating Hypoglycemia, Diabetes Well, 19 April 2000, . "What is Hypoglycemia?", Mediconsult Network, 19 April 2000, . Word Count: 1140
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