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What is hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia is a blood sugar level low enough to treat or adjust therapy (less than or equal to 70 mg/dL). A hypoglycemic event in which you can treat the symptoms yourself is called mild or moderate hypoglycemia. In cases of severe hypoglycemia, you may not be able to treat yourself and will need help from someone else right away.

Some things that may cause hypoglycemia:

  • Taking certain diabetes medications
  • Eating too few carbohydrates or skipping/delaying a meal
  • Taking too much diabetes medication
  • Being more active than usual

Common signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia

Symptoms of hypoglycemia can come on quickly and vary from person to person, but may include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or shakiness
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased heart rate
  • Changes in mood
  • Or you may have no symptoms at all

Severe hypoglycemia, which requires the assistance of another person to administer therapy (such as glucose or glucagon), can be dangerous and needs to be treated immediately.

Be prepared for the potential of hypoglycemia

While hypoglycemia will always be a risk when taking some diabetes medicines, you can take steps to help prepare for it.

Pack a snack
When you start to feel the symptoms of hypoglycemia developing, it’s a good idea to check your blood sugar and eat or drink something with sugar to get your blood sugar level back up. It’s a good idea to always have a candy bar, apple juice, or glucose tablets with you.

Check your blood sugar
Be sure to routinely monitor your blood sugar as directed by your health care provider, and pay attention to how certain activities and medicines affect your blood sugar level. Talk to your diabetes care team if you notice any patterns that cause your blood sugar to dip too low.

Talk about all hypoglycemic events
Any time you have an episode of hypoglycemia, even if it’s mild and you are able to treat the symptoms yourself, tell your diabetes care team about it. There may be changes they can make to your diabetes care plan.

Discussing hypoglycemia with family and friends

Hypoglycemia may be difficult for people with diabetes to talk about – even with their closest family and friends. A global survey of 4,300 caregivers conducted by Novo Nordisk found family members feel that more openly discussing hypoglycemia will bring them closer together and increase their understanding of how they can better help manage such events in the future.

Watch how three real people living with diabetes opened up the dialogue about hypoglycemia with their family and the impact it had on them.

"As someone with diabetes, I thought low blood sugar was a good thing—but it can get too low."

Depending on where you’re at in your diabetes journey, you may need to be on a diabetes medicine. It’s great that you’ve taken that step, but unfortunately, with some diabetes medicines, you may be at a higher risk for hypoglycemia. I’ve had hypoglycemia before, and it’s no joke. My advice? Don’t mess around with hypoglycemia, bro—it can be dangerous.

If your doctor says so, check your blood sugar regularly and always have a candy bar or something on you just in case you need to eat something to get your blood sugar back up. But hey, don’t just eat it if you get hungry. Save it for when you go low.

Most importantly, get real about knowing the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia—and don’t keep it to yourself. Make sure to talk to your diabetes care team if you get hypoglycemia.

Anthony Anderson is a paid spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, Inc.

What is hyperglycemia?

High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, happens when there is too much sugar in your blood. High blood sugar may affect people whether their diabetes is well controlled or not. In people whose diabetes is not well controlled, episodes of high blood sugar may happen because they are not managing their diabetes as well as they should. Or they may not even know that they have diabetes. If left untreated, high blood sugar can cause serious health problems.

Signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia

High blood sugar can happen to you if you skip a dose of diabetes medicine, eat more than usual, are less active than usual, are under stress, or are sick. If your blood sugar is too high, you may:

  • Feel very thirsty or hungry
  • Need to pass urine more than usual
  • Feel like your mouth and skin are dry
  • Have blurry vision
  • Feel sleepy
  • Notice that sores and wounds are healing slower than usual
  • Have unexplained weight loss


Managing hyperglycemia

If you have signs or symptoms of high blood sugar (higher than 130 mg/dL when you are fasting and before a meal or higher than 180 mg/dL over 2 hours after a meal), check your blood sugar using your meter and follow these steps:

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or sugar-free fluid. Personally, you may need more or less, but a general rule of thumb is to try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day
  • If you check your blood sugar, your diabetes care team may ask you to check your blood sugar more often, for example, before meals, at bedtime, and occasionally 2 hours after a meal
  • Look for patterns in the times and causes of high blood sugar readings
  • Always follow the advice of your health care provider. Ask about what blood sugar levels you should tell him/her about

If your blood sugar is higher than usual, you can help lower it if you take your medicine at the right time and follow the meal and activity plan you have discussed with your diabetes care team.

If you experience signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia, be sure to follow up with your health care provider.

Anthony Anderson's diabetes story

Diabetes is diabetes, even if you’re a celebrity. Hear how Anthony got real about healthy eating, being active, and taking his medicine as discussed with his doctor.

Start your own story

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