Blood sugar level is critical the body’s functions however it can sometimes be too low or too high. When a person has abnormally low levels of blood sugar (glucose), it is known as hypoglycaemia, and when blood sugar is abnormally high, this is known as hyperglycaemia. Both conditions can be potentially quite serious.
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy, and most people know when their blood sugar levels have dropped. The signs of low sugar levels are hunger, trembling, shakiness, nausea, pallor, and sweating. When hypoglycaemia is more severe, a person can become irrational (similar to somebody who is drunk), have a seizure or lose consciousness.
It’s important to know how blood sugar is regulated in the body and, if you are hypoglycaemic, what solutions are available to you. The digestive system breaks down carbohydrates from the foods we eat into sugar molecules, one of which is glucose. This goes straight into the bloodstream after we eat. Glucose also needs insulin – a hormone produced and excreted by the pancreas – before it can enter a cell. If we are not eating enough good foods, or going for long periods without food, the blood sugar levels drop.
If you have abnormally low blood sugar you need to eat or drink something with sugar as soon as possible. Examples for quick results include some glucose tablets, sugar lumps, sweets, or a glass of fruit juice. This should be followed by slower-release carbohydrates, such as cereals, bread, rice, or fruit. In the longer term, eating well and regularly will help and if you are exercising, make sure you’ve eaten some carbohydrate rich food beforehand.
Hypoglycaemia is often linked to diabetes. If you are diabetic check blood glucose levels regularly, let people know if you are susceptible to attacks of hypoglycaemia, explain what the signs are and what should be done. Also make sure you carry a medical diabetes ID, so people will know what to do sooner.
As with any medical condition, seek your doctor’s advice promptly as untreated hypoglycaemia can be serious.
Just as serious is hyperglycaemia. This is when there is an excessive amount of glucose circulating in the blood. Hyperglycaemia can be a sign of diabetes (both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes) and pre-diabetes.
The signs and symptoms of hyperglycaemia include:
• High blood glucose
• High levels of sugar in the urine
• Frequent urination
• Increased thirst.
Most often, hyperglycaemia is linked to diabetes and treatment involves managing your diabetes and checking your blood glucose often. You will need to work with your doctor to determine the safest ways to bring blood sugar levels down.
Exercise and cutting down on the amount of food you eat might also help, and you should consult your doctor and dietician to make changes in your meal plan and develop a safe exercise plan too. If exercise and changes in your diet don’t work, your doctor may change the amount of your medication or insulin or possibly the timing of when you take it.
Hyperglycaemia can be a serious problem if it isn’t treated, so it’s important to seek medical advice as soon as you detect it.