Diabetes can be a worrying condition and if not handled properly it can lead to significant health problems.
One of the most common problems diabetes suffers will encounter is hypoglycaemia, a condition caused by too little glucose in the blood.
When glucose levels drop beyond a certain point, the body is unable to operate normally and the person in question suffers what is known as a "hypo", short for hypoglycaemia.
Fortunately, there are a number of early warning symptoms which occur when blood glucose levels drop, which allow people to take action and avoid a more severe case of hypoglycaemia. These include being hungry, unexpected sweating, dizziness, feeling tired, blurry vision, trembling, anxiousness, pale skin, a fast pulse or palpitations, or tingling lips.
It is important to remember that not everyone suffering from low blood glucose will have all of these symptoms and may even have just one or two. This means it is vitally important to be aware of all of them, so the warning signs can be spotted and the hypo can be dealt with quickly.
If this does not happen, more severe symptoms can develop and these include difficulty concentrating, confusion and irrational behaviour.
Sometimes, these more extreme symptoms can be mistaken for drunkenness, so again it is important that people are aware of what is really going on, especially as their confused state may mean the person with diabetes has difficulty treating the hypo on their own.
At the most extreme end of the scale, hypoglycaemia can lead to unconsciousness. This happens when there is not enough glucose for the brain to function normally.
Clearly, if this occurs the individual affected will not be capable of treating themselves, and they will need to be injected with the hormone glucagon, which will rapidly increase blood sugar levels, restoring consciousness as it does so.
Hypos can also happen at night. This is known as nocturnal hypoglycaemia and is more common among individuals who use insulin to treat their diabetes. In the case of nocturnal hypoglycaemia, it is likely the symptoms will only become apparent when you wake up the following morning.
One, or a combination of the following symptoms – a headache, disturbed sleep, feeling more tired than usual when you get up and damp sheets or night clothes because of excessive sweating – is a sign you are suffering from nocturnal hypoglycaemia and should be taken seriously.
Nocturnal hypoglycaemia can be tricky to deal with and although eating a snack comprising of slowly absorbed carbohydrate before bed can help tackle the issue, speaking with a medical professional is always a good idea.
By understanding the symptoms of hypoglycaemia people with diabetes can go a long way to avoiding some of the most serious complications associated with the condition. But it is vital that their friends, family and even co-workers are able to recognise the signs of low blood sugar levels so they can provide assistance if needed.
Written by Kat Kraetzer, an experienced blogger working in the health-care industry for many years