Hypoglycemia is a condition that is associated with a sudden drop in glucose levels in the blood. Glucose is an essential byproduct of the process of human metabolism which is necessary for every cell to function normally. The carbohydrates from the foods we consume are converted by the body into glucose which, in turn, moves through the bloodstream giving all organ systems the energy needed to carry out the respective functions. However, the pancreas needs to produce a certain amount of insulin to convert this broken down glucose into a usable form. Specifically, in children and adults with type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, in which case the pancreas do not produce insulin. Due to this, they have to take insulin externally in order to regulate the available blood sugar. When the blood glucose levels drop anywhere below 70 milligrams per microliter, it is considered to be a hypoglycemic state.
What happens in this condition?
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is also known as juvenile diabetes because a majority of cases are usually diagnosed at some point during childhood. While remarkable advances have been made in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, one major challenge that most type 1 diabetics face is hypoglycemia, which if ignored, can prove to be fatal. While all diabetics are at risk for regular episodes of a drop in blood glucose levels, the risk is greater in type 1 diabetes. The reason for this is that the insulin is exogenously delivered to the bloodstream, either through prescribed injections or continually through an insulin pump that is affixed to the body. Since the insulin is not naturally produced, the body does not recognize its presence in its normal physiological biofeedback loop. Hence, sudden spikes and sudden drops in blood glucose levels are common in type 1 diabetics.
Children with type 1 diabetes usually report a minimum of 1 or 2 episodes of hypoglycemia. While hypoglycemia can occur even when one is active during the day, it is more dangerous when it occurs at night during sleep, as the child may not be immediately aware of the symptoms.
Symptoms of the condition
The important symptoms of hypoglycemia that type 1 diabetics must immediately take note of include sudden feeling of fatigue, weakness or tremors in the body, dizziness, sudden onset of headaches and increase of irritability. Hypoglycemia may also manifest as intense hunger pangs. When the blood sugar levels drop very low, the chance of fainting is also there.
In severe conditions of hypoglycemia, it is possible for the person to slip into a diabetic coma. Other symptoms of severe hypoglycemia include convulsions, seizures, incoherence while speaking, slurring, and blurring of vision and disorientation. These symptoms must be recognized and immediately countered.
If the hypoglycemic episodes increase in frequency it is necessary to see the attending physician in order to adjust the insulin intake and possibly discuss necessary dietary modification. In general, following a diet that is high in fiber but low in simple carbohydrates is advisable in order to avoid these sudden episodes of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia in children with type 1 diabetes.