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Hypoglycemia: Introduction

Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, is an abnormal condition in which the sugar (glucose) level in the blood is too low.

Hypoglycemia can happen by itself or can be a symptom of or occur with a variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Hypoglycemia can be caused by over-exercising and not eating enough carbohydrates and by starvation dieting. Hypoglycemia can also occur in some people after drinking alcohol, especially large amounts of alcohol.

Serious disease, disorders and conditions that can also increase the risk of developing hypoglycemia include type 1 diabetes, insulin-secreting tumors of the pancreas, kidney disease, Addison's disease and liver disease. Hypoglycemia can also be a side effect of some medications. In some cases, it is not possible to diagnose the underlying cause of hypoglycemia. For more details on causes, refer to causes of hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia can occur in any age group or population. Depending on the cause, hypoglycemia can be short-term and disappear quickly, such as when hypoglycemia occurs after a single episode of over-exercising but is quickly treated by eating a meal. Hypoglycemia can also recur over a longer period of time, such as when hypoglycemia is due to kidney disease or liver disease.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include rapid heartbeat, hunger, confusion, fatigue, cold sweats, shakiness and headache. Severe hypoglycemia that is not treated quickly can lead to unconsciousness and even death in extreme untreated cases.

Hypoglycemia is easy to diagnose during a routine office visit with a simple blood test, called a fasting blood glucose test. Hypoglycemia is generally defined as having a fasting blood sugar level of less than 55mg/dL. In an emergency, hypoglycemia can be quickly diagnosed on a random blood glucose test.

Making a diagnosis generally also includes performing a variety of tests to help to diagnose potential underlying diseases, conditions or disorders and evaluate overall health. Blood tests can include a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel, urinanalysis, and liver function tests. Depending on the suspected cause, tests may also include special imaging tests, such as X-ray, nuclear imaging, CT scan and/or MRI.

A diagnosis of hypoglycemia can be missed or delayed because symptoms can mimic symptoms of other conditions and for a variety of other reasons. For more details on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of hypoglycemia.

Treatment of hypoglycemia involves ingesting foods and/or fluids that contain glucose. In severe and emergency cases, glucose may be given via intramuscular injection or intravenously. The underlying diseases, disorders and conditions also require treatment to prevent or minimize future episodes of hypoglycemia. For more details on treatment, refer to treatment of hypoglycemia. ...more »

Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia is a low level of sugar in the blood. When you haven't eaten recently, the body will usually produce sugar in the liver to avoid blood sugar levels falling. However, this mechanism does not always work perfect. Some people have mild hypoglycemia where they occasionally get the shakes when hungry, but are not seriously afflicted. Other people have chronic hypoglycemia where a hypoglycemic episode occurs regularly and may need medications or dietary management. When this occurs shortly after a meal it is called "reactive hypoglycemia" and when it occurs after a long period of non-eating it is "fasting hypoglycemia". Sudden and actue hypoglycemic episodes (or "hypos") are also very common for diabetics, in reaction to an imbalance between insulin or diabetes pills, level of food, and level of exercise or activity. ...more »

Hypoglycemia: Treatments

The first step in treating hypoglycemia is prevention. Prevention measures include not over-exercising and always eating a well balanced diet that contains sufficient amounts of carbohydrates. It is also important not to go on starvation or fasting diets and not to drink alcohol or to drink in moderation.

Prevention of hypoglycemia cause by an ...more treatments »

Hypoglycemia: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of hypoglycemia may be missed or delayed because symptoms may be mild and resolve quickly with the consumption of food and fluids that contain carbohydrates. However, in some cases, hypoglycemia can be the result of a serious condition, such as liver disease. This is why it is important to have regular medical care throughout a lifetime, even ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Treatments for Hypoglycemia

  • Treatments for an acute hypoglycemic episode include:
    • Sugars - almost any kind of glucose or other sugar: sweets, non-diet sodas, fruit juice, milk (skim is best), chocolate, candies, etc.
    • Glucagon injection
    • Emergency treatment
  • Treatments for reactive hypoglycemia after meals includes:
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Hypoglycemia:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia: Related Patient Stories

Hypoglycemia: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Hypoglycemia.

Alternative Treatments for Hypoglycemia

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Hypoglycemia may include:

Types of Hypoglycemia

  • Diabetic hypoglycemia - a "hypo" attack caused by diabetes treatments.
  • Reactive hypoglycemia - regularly getting a hypo a few hours after meals.
  • Fasting hypoglycemia - getting a hypo on an empty stomach
  • more types...»

Diagnostic Tests for Hypoglycemia

Test for Hypoglycemia in your own home

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Hypoglycemia: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Hypoglycemia:

Causes of Hypoglycemia

More information about causes of Hypoglycemia:

Disease Topics Related To Hypoglycemia

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Hypoglycemia:

Hypoglycemia: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

In-Depth Reports: Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis

Diabetes diagnosis and misdiagnosis (In-Depth Report): Detailed report on diabetes misdiagnoses, rare curable types, and less common full report »

Misdiagnosis and Hypoglycemia

Metabolic syndrome often undiagnosed: Metabolic syndrome, also known as Syndrome X, is an often overlooked medical condition that causes a cluster more »

Heart attacks can be undiagnosed: Although the most severe symptoms of heart attack are hard to miss, there are varying degrees of severity. It is altogether too common more »

Heart attacks can be overdiagnosed: Although many people die from heart attacks, there are also many cases where people fear that they have a heart attack, but actually have something milder. Some of the conditions which may be more »

Unnecessary hysterectomies due to undiagnosed bleeding disorder in women: The bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand's disease is quite common in women, but often fails to be more »

Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to diagnose, more »

Poorly healing leg rashes a classic sign of chronic disease: Recurring leg rashes, or poorly healing leg rashes, are a classic sign more »

Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps, particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes. However, there are also various other causes. See causes of leg cramps or more »

Obesity-related conditions undiagnosed in children: A variety of conditions are associated with obesity (see obesity), but these tend to be undiagnosed more often in child patients than in adults. Some of the more »

Hypoglycemia: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Hypoglycemia

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Hypoglycemia:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Hypoglycemia, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Hypoglycemia: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Latest Treatments for Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia: Animations

Research about Hypoglycemia

Visit our research pages for current research about Hypoglycemia treatments.

Clinical Trials for Hypoglycemia

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Hypoglycemia include:

Statistics for Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia: Broader Related Topics

Hypoglycemia Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Hypoglycemia, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia: NIDDK (Excerpt)

Glucose, a form of sugar, is the body's main fuel. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, occurs when blood levels of glucose drop too low to fuel the body's activity. (Source: excerpt from Hypoglycemia: NIDDK)

Diabetes: NWHIC (Excerpt)

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is not diabetes but may occur as a complication of diabetes, as a condition in itself, or in association with other disorders. Hypoglycemia occurs when levels of glucose, the body's main fuel, drop too low to fuel the body's activity. Carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are the body's main dietary sources of glucose. During digestion, the glucose is absorbed into the blood stream (hence the term "blood sugar"), which carries it to every cell in the body. Unused glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen. In the case of hypoglycemia, the mechanism for converting stored glucose (glycogen) back into usable glucose energy (glucose) by the body is faulty. The process normally involves the liver and other organs as well as various hormones. (Source: excerpt from Diabetes: NWHIC)

Definitions of Hypoglycemia:

A syndrome of abnormally low BLOOD GLUCOSE level. Clinical hypoglycemia has diverse etiologies. Severe hypoglycemia eventually lead to glucose deprivation of the CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM resulting in HUNGER; SWEATING; PARESTHESIA; impaired mental function; SEIZURES; COMA; and even DEATH. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Abnormally low blood sugar usually resulting from excessive insulin or a poor diet - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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