Hypoglycemia, in contrast with hyperglycemia, is the decrease in the amount of glucose, the main energy source in the blood. Hypoglycemia is when there is less than 0.50 g of glucose per liter of blood. The causes of hypoglycemia are numerous and varied: the lack of sugar intake, severe malnutrition, hypothermia, hormonal imbalance, certain diseases of the liver, kidney failure, certain medications such as insulin, a pancreatic tumor and alcohol intake. Diabetics are at high risk of hypoglycemia and should keep in mind that any disturbance of consciousness that occurs could be a sign of hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia occurs with different symptoms:
- disturbances of vision;
- behavioral problems, anxiety or irritability
- tingling in the extremities;
- drowsiness, convulsions or coma.
Hypoglycemia is easy to suspect in a diabetic patient, and is typically diagnosed after an interview during which certain factors are mentioned: excessive insulin, inadequate dietary intake, a high physical effort, or alcohol consumption. In cases of suspected hypoglycemia, blood glucose will be measured as soon as possible. The disappearance of symptoms after food intake or intravenous nutrition can also confirm the diagnosis in patients with impaired consciousness.
In the case of hypoglycemia, the first thing to do is to take in carbohydrates by consuming biscuits, sugar cubes or fruit juice if the patient is conscious. An injection - under the skin or into the muscle - of glucagon, whose action opposes that of insulin and increases blood sugar, can be administered in the event of loss of consciousness. If the person is in a coma, glucose will be administered intravenously.
We must learn to recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and always have sweet foods at hand. In the case of diabetes, the treatment must be adapted according to the following factors: food, stress, physical activity and medication. The education of the diabetic patient and those around him are an integral part of diabetes treatment.