Hypoglycaemia, or a"hypo",is an abnormally low level of glucose in yourblood (less than four millimoles per litre).

When your glucose (sugar)level is toolow, your body doesn't have enough energy to carry out its activities.

Hypoglycaemia is most commonly associated with diabetes , and mainly occurs if someone with diabetes takes too much insulin, misses a meal or exercises too hard.

In rare cases, it's possible for a person who doesn't have diabetesto experience hypoglycaemia. It can be triggered by Malnutrition , binge drinking or certain conditions, such as Addison's disease .

Symptoms usually occur when blood sugar levels fall below four millimoles (mmol) per litre.

Typical early warning signs are feeling hungry, trembling or shakiness, and sweating. In more severe cases, you may also feel confused and have difficulty concentrating. In very severe cases, a person experiencing hypoglycaemia can lose consciousness.

It's also possible for hypoglycaemia to occur during sleep, which can cause excess sweating, disturbed sleep, and feeling tired and confused upon waking.

After having something sugary, you may need to have a longer-acting "starchy" carbohydrate food, such asa sandwich or afew biscuits.

If hypoglycaemia causes a loss of consciousness, an injection of the hormone glucagon can be given to raise blood glucose levels and restore consciousness. This is onlyif an injection is available and the person giving the injection knows how to use it.

You should dial 999 to request an ambulance if:

  • a glucagon injection kit isn't available
  • there's nobody trained to give the injection
  • the injection is ineffective after 10 minutes

Never try to put food or drink into the mouth of someone who's drowsy or unconsciousas they could choke.This includes some of the high-sugar preparations specifically designed for smearing inside the cheek.

You should be careful when drinking alcohol as it can alsocause hypoglycaemia, sometimes many hours after drinking.

Exercise or activity is another potential cause, and you should have aplan for dealing with this, such as eating carbohydrate before, during or after exercise, or adjusting your insulin dose.

You should also make sure you regularly change where you inject insulinas the amount of insulin your body absorbs can differ depending on where it's injected.

Always carry rapid-acting carbohydratewith you, such as glucose tablets, a carton of fruit juice (one that contains sugar), or some sweets in case you feel symptoms coming on or your blood glucose level is low.

Make sure your friends and family know about your diabetes and the risk of hypoglycaemia. It may also help to carry some form of identification that lets people know about your condition in an emergency.

When hypoglycaemia occurs as the result ofan underlying condition other than diabetes, the condition will need to be treated to prevent a further hypo.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 31 Aug 2016