Hypoglycemia and Managing Glucose Levels

Hypoglycemia occurs when an individual's blood glucose levels fall below 70 milligrams per deciliter, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition is often related to the treatment of diabetes but may also affect nondiabetic patients. Controlling your blood sugar — especially if you are diabetic — is an important part of your overall health. If you notice any signs of low blood sugar, work with your doctor to determine the cause and create a treatment plan.

Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

People with diabetes have elevated levels of glucose in the blood, but that doesn't mean they can't experience low blood sugar levels. People with diabetes, whether they have Type 1 or Type 2, must constantly monitor the amount of sugar in their bloodstream and may take insulin or other medications that lower blood glucose levels. However, if they take too much insulin or other diabetes medications, their blood sugar levels may drop too low, resulting in hypoglycemia.

An individual with Type 1 diabetes may experience up to two mild hypoglycemic episodes per week, reports the American Diabetes Association. For people with Type 2, low blood sugar affects those who are dependent on insulin more often than those who take other medications, according to a PLoS ONE report. Individuals on insulin had an average of 23 mild hypoglycemic episodes per year, while those on medications containing sulphonylureas experienced an average of two episodes per year. If you have diabetes and experience hypoglycemic episodes, consult your doctor for advice on possibly changing your medication or dose.

If you do not have diabetes, your chances of experiencing hypoglycemia are much lower. Certain medications, excessive alcohol consumption, liver or kidney disease, tumors and hormone deficiencies could result in low blood sugar in nondiabetics, explains the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a hypoglycemic episode can range from mild to serious. The mild symptoms include:

  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shaking
  • Heartbeat irregularity
  • Sleepiness
  • Numbness or tingling in the lips, tongue or cheeks

As the condition worsens, an individual may experience confusion, blurred vision, seizures or unconsciousness. If you have frequent or severe hypoglycemic episodes, speak with your doctor about wearing a medical alert bracelet.

Because everyone exhibits slightly different symptoms of low blood sugar, the American Diabetes Association recommends writing them down as they occur. This will help you recognize your signs and bring your glucose levels back to normal.

Treatment and Prevention

Treating low blood sugar usually involves immediate consumption of a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as fruit juice or glucose tablets, states the Mayo Clinic. After 15 minutes, check your blood sugar and repeat the treatment as necessary.

To prevent recurrent episodes, consult with your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your low blood sugar. You may be able to keep your glucose levels stable by limiting alcohol intake and avoiding skipping meals, which can lower your blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association advises that people with diabetes check their glucose levels several times a day with a continuous glucose monitor. Your medical provider can use a patient questionnaire and provider checklist to assess your condition and work with you to formulate a plan to prevent future episodes.

Glucose Levels and Oral Health

During a hypoglycemic incident, individuals need to quickly consume glucose to restore their sugar levels. However, sugary foods can promote bacteria buildup in the mouth. Make sure to thoroughly brush your teeth after consuming any sugary foods.

While low blood sugar on its own doesn't directly impact the mouth, diabetes can have a number of oral health implications. The American Dental Association notes that your risk of developing gum disease increases if your blood sugar is not under control. Diabetes impairs your immune system, making you more vulnerable to disease and infections that may affect your mouth. Diabetics also may suffer from dry mouth, which can lead to tooth decay.

To keep your mouth healthy, maintain a daily routine of proper brushing and flossing, and see your dentist for regular preventive checkups. Remember that good dental health habits contribute to your overall health and give you a smile that can last a lifetime.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.