Hypoglycaemia (Low Blood Glucose), When Can It Kill?

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Hypoglycaemia (Low Blood Glucose), When Can It Kill?

Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) happens when blood glucose falls below normal levels (below 4.0 mmol/L). Dr Amanda Lam, Associate Consultant at the Department of Endocrinology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, highlights severe symptoms to watch out for during a hypoglycaemic attack, and when to call for emergency help. (iStock photo)       

If you are undergoing treatment for diabetes, hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) can occur when you:

  • Take too much insulin, or certain oral glucose-lowering pills
  • Do not eat enough food
  • Wait too long between meals, or skip a meal
  • Exercise more than usual
  • Drink excessive alcohol, or drink alcohol without food

Related article: Diabetes diet – What you can eat and what to avoid

"Symptoms of hypoglycaemia are unpleasant and may interfere with your daily activities. Serious hypoglycaemia may cause accidents, seizures, coma and death. Fortunately, there are ways to recognise, treat, and prevent hypoglycaemia," says Dr Lam.

Early symptoms of hypoglycaemia

Early signs and symptoms of hypoglycaemia include:

  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling sensation in your fingers, lips or tongue
  • Feeling hungry or nauseous
  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Feeling irritable

If you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, check your blood glucose using a glucometer. If your blood glucose is < 4.0="" mmol/l,="" eat="" or="" drink="" 15g="" of="" fast-acting="">

Related article: Side effects of diabetes medications

Severe symptoms of hypoglycaemia

If you experience any of the severe symptoms below, you or the people around you should call for an ambulance (995) immediately.

  • Weakness and difficulty walking
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion and abnormal behaviour
  • Unclear speech
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

Hypoglycaemia can occur during sleep

Symptoms that indicate you could be experiencing a hypoglycaemic attack while asleep include:

  • Profuse sweating while sleeping
  • Seizure
  • Feeling tired or confused, or having a headache after waking up

Related article: The 15/15 rule to surviving a hypoglycaemic attack

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