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What Causes Hypoglycemia and How Does It Affect Diabetics?

Diana Tosuni-O'Neill RDH, BS

All diabetics should have a good understanding of what causes hypoglycemia. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Endocrine Society, it is a condition that occurs when blood sugar, or glucose, is too low. The organization reports that new guidelines have been developed to make clinicians aware of the effects of hypoglycemia, a condition that can affect both type 1 and 2 diabetics.

Early signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia usually include hunger, tremors, sweating, anxiety, irritability, pallor, heart palpitations, accelerated heart rate and perhaps tingling lips. Updates to the ADA Guidelines will help clinicians recognize that hypoglycemia is a real problem for diabetic patients and could become very dangerous if left untreated.

Diabetes can also cause an increased risk for gum disease; therefore, good brushing and flossing techniques must be incorporated into daily habits. In addition to regular dental checkups, patients can improve their oral health with proper brushing and flossing techniques. Colgate Total toothpaste can help diabetics maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Two Educational Tools for Clinicians

There are two tools, the Hypoglycemic Patient Questionnaire and the Hypoglycemia Provider Checklist, that will assist healthcare professionals in identifying cases of hypoglycemia. The questionnaire is a tool given to patients while in the waiting room. This will help the clinician evaluate whether or not a patient is having hypoglycemia symptoms. The second is a checklist for clinicians to use during office visits to help them make sure that they address all issues related to hypoglycemia.

The Hypoglycemic Patient Questionnaire asks the following questions to patients:

  • How well they can recognize symptoms of low blood glucose?
  • How many times in a typical week their blood glucose drops below 70 mg/dL?
  • How many times they have had a severe episode of hypoglycemia that requires someone's help?
  • Whether they check their blood glucose before driving?
  • Whether a spouse, relative or some other close individual knows how to administer glucagon?

The Hypoglycemia Provider Checklist asks clinicians the following questions:

  • If they have reviewed the Hypoglycemia Patient Questionnaire?
  • If they asked the patient about circumstances surrounding severe or moderate hypoglycemia?
  • If strategies were discussed to avoid hypoglycemic episodes?
  • If appropriate medication changes were made?
  • If glucagon needs to be prescribed?

The checklist also recommends carrying a snack or glucose tablets or other source of 15g of carbohydrate in case of hypoglycemia episodes.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Clinicians should remind their patients to have their glucose meter with them at all times, so they can check their blood sugar if they feel ill or think they might be having a hypoglycemic episode. The clinician should also recommend to patients that they carry a snack containing carbohydrates with them, as this type of food can help with an episode of hypoglycemia.

Simply knowing what causes hypoglycemia will help diabetics avoid the condition, and the updated guidelines will certainly assist clinicians in treating this medical problem.

Learn more about diabetes and oral health problems in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: N/A

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