What to Do if Your Blood Sugar Is Too Low

You'll need to test your blood sugar if you think you have hypoglycemia.
Although type 2 diabetes is characterized by blood sugar that is too high, some people take insulin and others medications (such as sulfonylureas) that can occasionally drive blood sugar too low.

When blood sugar is too low—generally less than 70 mg/dL—it's called hypoglycemia, and it can become a medical emergency. (The normal range for fasting blood sugar is 70 to 99 mg/dL, though it varies somewhat with age, and is lower during pregnancy and in children.)

You can lose consciousness
Hypoglycemia is more likely to occur when you start taking a new medication (it can take practice to match your food intake to your insulin dose, for example) or if you exercise more than usual.

As blood sugar drops to low levels, you may feel:

• Shaky
• Irritable
• Sweaty

This can occur within 10 to 15 minutes, and in extreme cases you can even lose consciousness and experience seizures if you don't consume some glucose (though hypoglycemia is usually mild in people with type 2 diabetes, and readily fixed by drinking juice or eating other sugar-containing items, such as glucose tablets or four to six pieces of hard candy).

You'll need to test your blood sugar to confirm that you're having hypoglycemia—some people become irritable if blood sugar is too high, so it's not always obvious.

If you drink sugar-containing juice, or some other form of carbohydrate, it should bring blood sugar back into the normal range. You can also purchase glucose pills or gels in the pharmacy that can get blood sugar back on track.

“You should always have a glucose source in the car,” says Yvonne Thigpen, RD, diabetes program coordinator at Mount Clemens Regional Medical Center in Mt. Clemens, Mich. You never know when youll hit construction or get stuck in traffic, she says.

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Last Updated: April 21, 2008

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