Treatment of hypoglycemia involves:
- Immediate initial treatment to raise your blood sugar level
- Treatment of the underlying condition that's causing your hypoglycemia to prevent it from recurring
Immediate initial treatment
The initial treatment depends on your symptoms. Early symptoms can usually be treated by consuming 15 to 20 grams of a fast-acting carbohydrate. Fast-acting carbohydrates are foods that are easily converted to sugar in the body, such as candy, fruit juice, regular — not diet — soft drinks, or glucose tablets or gel. Foods containing fat or protein aren't good treatments for hypoglycemia, because protein and fat can slow the body's absorption of sugar.
Recheck blood sugar levels 15 minutes after treatment. If blood sugar levels are still under 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L), treat with another 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrate, and recheck the blood sugar level again in 15 minutes. Repeat these steps until the blood sugar is above 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L).
Once the blood sugar levels are back to normal, it's important to have a snack or meal to help stabilize your blood sugar. This also helps the body replenish glycogen stores that may have been depleted during the hypoglycemia.
If your symptoms are more severe, impairing your ability to take sugar by mouth, you may need an injection of glucagon or intravenous glucose. Do not give food or drink to someone who is unconscious, as he or she may aspirate these substances into the lungs.
If you're prone to severe episodes of hypoglycemia, ask your doctor if a home glucagon kit might be appropriate for you. In general, people with diabetes who are treated with insulin should have a glucagon kit for low blood sugar emergencies. Family and friends need to know where to find the kit, and need to be taught how to use it before an emergency occurs.
Treatment of the underlying condition
Preventing recurrent hypoglycemia requires your doctor to identify the underlying condition and treat it. Depending on the underlying cause, treatment may involve:
Jan. 20, 2015
- Medications. If a medication is the cause of your hypoglycemia, your doctor will likely suggest changing the medication or adjusting the dosage.
- Tumor treatment. A tumor in your pancreas is treated by surgical removal of the tumor. In some cases, partial removal of the pancreas is necessary.
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- Gardner DG, et al. Greenspan's Basic & Clinical Endocrinology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookId=380. Accessed Dec. 24, 2014.
- Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2015. Diabetes Care. 2015;38 (suppl):s7.
- Service FJ, et al. Hypoglycemia in adults: Clinical manifestations, definition, and causes. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 24, 2014.
- Hypoglycemia. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine_and_metabolic_disorders/diabetes_mellitus_and_disorders_of_carbohydrate_metabolism/hypoglycemia.html#v989452. Accessed Dec. 24, 2014.
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