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Hypoglycemia occurs when the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood is too low. Hypoglycemia can happen in people who do or do not have diabetes (diabetes mellitus). It can develop quickly, and it can be a medical emergency. For most people with diabetes, a blood glucose level below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) is considered hypoglycemia.
Glucose is a type of sugar that provides the body's main source of energy. Certain hormones (insulin and glucagon) control the level of glucose in the blood. Insulin lowers blood glucose, and glucagon increases blood glucose. Hypoglycemia can result from having too much insulin in the bloodstream, or from not eating enough food that contains glucose.
You can prevent hypoglycemia by working with your health care provider to adjust your meal plan as needed and by taking other precautions.
If mild hypoglycemia is not recognized and treated, it can quickly become moderate or severe hypoglycemia.
Treating hypoglycemia if you have diabetes
Treating severe hypoglycemia
Severe hypoglycemia is when your blood glucose level is below 54 mg/dL (3 mmol/L). Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency. Get medical help right away.
If you have severe hypoglycemia and you cannot eat or drink, you may need glucagon. A family member or close friend should learn how to check your blood glucose and how to give you glucagon. Ask your health care provider if you need to have an emergency glucagon kit available.
Severe hypoglycemia may need to be treated in a hospital. The treatment may include getting glucose through an IV. You may also need treatment for the cause of your hypoglycemia.
These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.
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