Severe Low Blood Sugar Is Real
Severe Low Blood Sugar Is Real
Real Stories From Real People: Robert
00:11 – 00:13 So the other night, I was out for dinner.
00:14 – 00:18 As it turns out, I gave myself way too much insulin.
00:19 – 00:21 So throughout the meal, feeling pretty good.
00:22 – 00:23 Right. No real problems.
00:23 – 00:28 But then soon after the meal was over, my insulin is kicking in.
00:28 – 00:30 I’m taking fast acting insulin.
00:30 – 00:32 It’s kicking in,
00:32 – 00:36 and my blood sugar is plummeting.
00:37 – 00:39 Because I’ve overcompensated.
00:39 – 00:42 My CGM alarm went off
00:43 – 00:47 and my wife could tell I was a little bit out of it.
00:47 – 00:50 And so she got involved right away,
00:51 – 00:54 took the CGM, scanned my arm, looked at the blood sugar,
00:54 – 01:00 and you could tell that it was trending down, heading 60, 62,
01:00 – 01:06 heading into the low sixties, even into the upper fifties, which for me,
01:07 – 01:11 I’m sweaty, I’m tingly, and I’m not really well-oriented.
Real Stories From Real People: Michael and Dina
00:10 – 00:12 And I was retiring for the evening,
00:12 – 00:16 doing a little bit of reading and all of a sudden my eyes began to
00:16 – 00:18 it was like a fading, if you will,
00:18 – 00:20 much like those of us that remember TV
00:20 – 00:25 shows that when the reception went bad, it began to fade out, and to narrow.
00:25 – 00:26 I really couldn’t see.
00:26 – 00:31 And I immediately checked my blood sugar, and from what I could tell,
00:31 – 00:34 I saw the red color, but I really couldn’t see the value at first.
00:34 – 00:37 And so I literally ended up hollering down to my family.
00:37 – 00:41 My wife and son were downstairs and immediately
00:41 – 00:44 my son came upstairs, running.
00:44 – 00:48 I had yelled what was going on, and he brought me the kit.
00:48 – 00:53 And of course, we have a little bags of certain candies, jellies, etc.
00:53 – 00:56 that are so many carbs to help address that.
00:56 – 00:58 But that wasn’t going to be enough.
00:58 – 01:03 So, end up taking the medication and it made a world of difference.
01:03 – 01:06 But I have to tell you, it was very sobering.
01:06 – 01:08 I wasn’t expecting that.
01:08 – 01:10 I thought I would stay in range and
01:11 – 01:13 I just was very fearful.
01:13 – 01:16 If they hadn’t been home, I don’t think I could have gotten down the stairs safely.
01:16 – 01:19 And I don’t know how fast I was going to continue to go low.
What Is Low Blood Sugar?
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is when the amount of sugar in your blood drops below a certain blood sugar level. For most people, low blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL (milligrams of sugar per deciliter of blood).
Low Blood Sugar Can Be Mild, Moderate, or Severe
In general, low blood sugar comes in three stages: mild, moderate, and severe. However, it does not always follow a clear, orderly pattern. You may “jump stages” or move from mild, to moderate, to severe in a matter of minutes, so it is very important to recognize early and treat at any stage.
Mild low blood sugar is when you are conscious and able to think clearly enough to self-treat by eating or drinking fast-acting carbohydrates.
Moderate low blood sugar is when you are conscious but may not be thinking clearly. You can usually self-treat with glucose tablets or by eating or drinking fast-acting carbohydrates.
Severe low blood sugar, also known as very low blood sugar, is when you are unable to self-treat and need help from someone else to recover. You may be conscious or unconscious.
For example, this could be when you:
- Need help from a family member to get juice out of the refrigerator but it is hard finding the words to ask
- Feel confused, clumsy, or weak due to low blood sugar, and are unable to think clearly or help yourself
If you are thinking “that has happened to me”, you are not the only one. Being unable to treat yourself is what makes a low blood sugar event severe.
What Are the Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Severe Low Blood Sugar?
If left untreated, severe low blood sugar can cause serious harm. This is why it’s important to recognize early warning signs, including:
Common Early Warning Signs
When you don’t have enough sugar in your blood, all parts of your body can be affected, including your brain. Symptoms that can happen when your brain doesn’t get enough blood sugar include:
Common Symptoms Caused by Lack of Enough Blood Sugar in the Brain
Take a moment to think about the signs and symptoms that YOU may have experienced, which may or may not be the same as those listed above.
Some people may have multiple signs or symptoms, while others may have minimal or no signs or symptoms until it becomes an emergency. In some cases, especially in people who are unaware their blood sugar is dropping low, caregivers or loved ones may spot signs and symptoms before the person having them does.
Signs and symptoms can also be different between one severe low blood sugar event to another — you may feel confused during one severe low and irritable during a different severe low.
Regardless of your blood sugar level, if you need help from someone else to recover, you are experiencing severe low blood sugar. If you or a loved one with diabetes experience a low blood sugar event, be sure to let your healthcare provider know—they can help with your action plan!
Review Your Knowledge
Learn More About Severe Low Blood Sugar Below
- International Hypoglycaemia Study Group. Diabetes Care. 2017;40:155-157.
- International Hypoglycaemia Study Group. What is hypoglycaemia? https://www.ihsgonline.com/what-is-hypoglycaemia-2/. Accessed November 1, 2021
- American Diabetes Associated Workgroup on Hypoglycemia. Diabetes Care. 2005;28(5):1245-1249.
- Edridge CL, et al. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(6):e0126427.
- American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2021;44(1):S73-S84.
- Edelman SV. Diabetes Educ. 2014;40(3):269-279.
- Frier BM. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014;10(12):711-722.
- International Hypoglycaemia Study Group. Diagnosis of hypoglycaemia. https://www.ihsgonline.com/diagnosis-2/. Accessed November 1, 2021.