Type-1 diabetes is a kind of diabetes where episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are quite common. This is reasonable since many patients with the condition need to take insulin for blood glucose control. Taking insulin is very common in type-1, but this also increases the risk of hypoglycemia.
First you need to completely understand the role of insulin in glucose metabolism.
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In the body, the primary component for energy is glucose. You can get glucose, a simple form of sugar, from high-glucose-containing foods, such as rice, wheat, fruit juice, etc.
Glucose taken from foods then goes into your bloodstream. Through the bloodstream, it will be distributed to cells of the body for energy. The excess of glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen or in the cells of fat as ‘fat’.
But before glucose can be used for energy, cells and tissues of the body need insulin to help absorb glucose from the bloodstream.
Without insulin (a hormone produced by by cells of your pancreas), it’s hard for the cells of the body to absorb glucose in the bloodstream.
The release of this hormone is in line with the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. For instance, the pancreas releases more insulin after meals.
In diabetics, the action or production of insulin is impaired. Type-1 diabetes is more difficult to treat than type-2 diabetes, a common type of diabetes that takes about more than 90 % of all diabetes cases.
While in type-2 diabetes the pancreas is still able to make some insulin (though this doesn’t meet to the body needs), the production of insulin in type-1 is much lower or even some patients have no any insulin from their pancreas.
Therefore, most individuals with type-1 need to take insulin replacement in order to supply adequate insulin for their glucose metabolism!
But while taking insulin is helpful for blood sugar control, this option also increases the risk of hypoglycemia. There is a chance for patients to take insulin too much, making hypoglycemia more likely.
Excessive insulin in the bloodstream can significantly reduce glucose in the bloodstream. As a result, the blood sugar level can drop drastically at short time. Accidentally taking insulin in healthy individuals (non diabetics) also may lead to hypoglycemia.
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Most people (both diabetics & non-diabetics) can develop symptoms of hypoglycemia if their blood sugar is lower than 60-70 mg /dL, according to the American Diabetes Association. And the symptoms are dependent on how far your blood glucose drops.
Headache /dizziness, increased hunger, anxiety /irritability /mood swings, confusion /difficulty concentrating, shakiness /trembling, sweating, increased heartbeats, paleness on the skin, and lack of energy /weakness /fatigue are some common symptoms of hypoglycemia [source].
Sometimes the condition could be severe enough to cause some of the following symptoms:
- Severe headache.
- Extremely poor coordination and very poor /loss of concentration.
- Tongue and mouth that become numbness.
- Extreme night sweats.
- And even could be potential to lead to passing out. Hypoglycemia is an emergency condition, immediate treatment is necessary!
The following are some helpful tips to help lower your risk when taking insulin:
- Follow the treatment plan as well as your doctor suggests!
- Do your exercise in regular basis!
- Make sure you take your diabetes medicines and insulin properly, particularly for the dosage! If necessary, double check the dosage each time before taking them!
- Completely understand about when your insulin replacement gets its peak level! This is important to estimate when you should get your next meal or do your exercise.
- Get to know first aids you need to do to treat hypoglycemia! For instance, you should carry sugar-containing foods with you at all times.
- Check your blood sugar regularly! It’s important to keep monitoring the fluctuation of your blood glucose.
In addition, at least one of your family members or your friends knows how to administer an injection of glucagon or other appropriate medicines when you have a severe hypoglycemia case (a situation when you are likely to have loss of consciousness).
Typically, hypoglycemia occurs when you skip your meals or after doing strenuous exercise. But did you know that it also may occur after eating (the time of when typically blood glucose reaches its peak level)?
In diabetics, reactive hypoglycemia (a term used to describe low blood sugar that develops after meal) usually occurs after eating many foods high in simple sugar.
This kind of hypoglycemia might also occurs if patients skip their meal plan (eating meals irregularly), drink excessive alcohol (especially without eating adequate foods), skip their meals when ill, or take strenuous workout.
There are a lot of options to help reduce your risk of hypoglycemia if you have type-1 diabetes. In general, a healthy and well-balanced diet is the key.
The goal of diet for type-1 diabetes and hypoglycemia is to keep the balance of blood glucose as close to normal as possible throughout the day. What’s more?