Prevent, detect, and manage hypoglycemia
People living with diabetes and using insulin or certain oral antidiabetic drugs must be prepared to deal with hypoglycemia.
What is hypoglycemia?
Diabetes is characterized by an elevation of sugar levels in the blood, called hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is responsible for the damage that leads to health issues in diabetics. The treatment of diabetes consists of returning blood glucose within a lower range. To do this, several strategies can be used, including the use of oral or injectable drugs, such as insulin. Insulin, as well as other antidiabetic drugs, can sometimes cause hypoglycemic episodes.
We speak of hypoglycemia when blood glucose is lower than 4.0 mmol/L. When poorly managed, hypoglycemia can become dangerous. It is possible to prevent it and limit its consequences by being well-informed.
How to recognize hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia may go undetected, especially when it occurs during the night. One of the best ways to counter its harmful effects is to know how to recognize the symptoms. These symptoms can include:
In more serious cases, hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness and even coma.
If you believe you recognize symptoms of hypoglycemia, you must quickly measure your blood glucose using your meter. A source of glucose must be ingested quickly to help blood glucose to rise again. Your pharmacist can explain exactly what to do when you experience a hypoglycemic episode. Develop an action plan with him/her.
Who is at risk of hypoglycemia and what are its causes?
Diabetics are not all at risk of hypoglycemia. People who use insulin or drugs that increase insulin production present a higher risk. It is particularly important for them to know the risk factors of hypoglycemia.
- skipping a meal or a snack
- physical activity, especially if it is intense
- alcohol consumption on an empty stomach, and
- taking certain medications to treat other health problems
Why must blood glucose be closely monitored?
Blood glucose levels fluctuate throughout the day under the influence of multiple factors. The key to success in controlling diabetes is to closely monitor blood glucose. Make sure you know about these fluctuations, so you can react promptly if there is an imbalance. Choose a blood glucose monitor that is accurate, suitable to your needs, and that you will use daily. You can detect hypoglycemia by using your meter regularly and when you become aware of symptoms or think you are at risk. Your pharmacist and pharmacy team members can help you with various aspects of blood glucose monitoring:
- choose the most suitable meter for your needs and situation
- teach you how to use the meter
- monitor your results
- help you with any problems you may experience