News Center

Friday, January 7, 2011

Low blood sugar poses challenge, but manageable: St. Francis diabetes expert

INDIANAPOLISIt might seem ironic that people with diabetes should be concerned about their blood sugar being too low. Diabetes is a condition of high blood sugar, right?

Fair enough. But hypoglycemia — when glucose (blood sugar) falls too low to keep pace with the body’s energy needs — can occur in people with diabetes. It can cause them to pass out unless treated promptly.

According to Michael Waddell, M.D., of St. Francis Medical Group Diabetes & Endocrinology Specialists, symptoms of hypoglycemia can include feeling shaky, dizzy, hungry, nervous, confused, anxious or weak; sweating; or having a headache.

“When you have symptoms, check your blood sugar,” Waddell said. “If it’s at or below 70 mg/dL, then you should immediately eat or drink something with sugar in it, such as fruit juice, milk, hard candy or glucose tablets.”

After 15 minutes, blood sugar should be rechecked and repeated until a person’s level is normal and they feel better. If, for any reason, glucose cannot be check, symptoms should be treated immediately.

“Although persistently high glucose causes harm to your body over time, a single episode of severe low glucose can cause damage right now,” Waddell said.

Hypoglycemia can happen for many reasons — for example, if a person takes insulin and then skips a meal, the blood sugar level may plummet.

While there may be no reliable way to prevent every incidence of hypoglycemia, following a diabetes plan may lower risk. Waddell suggested other ways to reduce risk:

  • Take diabetes medicine at the recommended doses and times.
  • Follow a meal plan, eat enough food at each meal and don’t skip meals or snacks.
  • Before exercising, consult a physician and determine if it’s okay to eat or adjust mediciations.

To learn more about services at the St. Francis Medical Group Diabetes & Endocrinology Center, go to