10 Early Signs of Hypoglycemia

You're shaky. You're sweating. You've never been so hungry in your life. If you've had diabetes for awhile, you recognize that you're experiencing an episode of hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, which needs to be treated right away before it gets dangerous. When the blood sugar drops below 70 mg/dl, this is considered hypoglycemia.

Everyone experiences hypoglycemia differently, so it pays to become familiar with the entire constellation of possible symptoms that could signal your blood sugar's plummeting.

"Everyone has their own little trigger," says Amy Fischl, RD, of the University of Chicago Medical Center. "One person could say they see black spots in front of their yes. Another one might be very irritable. Someone else may notice they have trouble hitting the Y on the keyboard."

Hypoglycemia can occur during sleep, too. Suspect the condition if you wake up and find that your sheets or pajamas are actually damp with sweat, or if you get up feeling confused, cranky and very irritable.

Signs of Hypoglycemia

Here, 10 early signs of hypoglycemia:

  • Tingling in the hands, feet, lips or tongue
  • Feeling very anxious
  • Blurry vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Anger
  • Sweatiness

What to Do

Acting quickly is crucial once hypoglycemia sets in. To treat the condition, the American Diabetes Association recommends some form of rapidly absorbable sugar, such as fruit juice, regular soda, glucose tablets or glucose gel. Some fast-acting carbohydrate snacks are:  ½ cup of soda or fruit juice, 2 tablespoons of raisins, 4 sugar packets, 1 or 2 teaspoons of honey, or 3 to 4 glucose tablets.

If Left Untreated...

If the hypoglycemia is not treated, more worrisome symptoms develop, including:

  • Unusual behavior
  • Slurred speeh
  • The inability to follow directions
  • Feelings of depression
  • Poor coordination
  • Lack of consciousness

Finally, while most people recognize when they're hypoglycemic, it's also possible to have hypoglycemia unawareness, a condition in which you don't sense when your blood glucose is too low. The signs and symptoms are there, but the person just doesn't feel them. This can begin happening when the person has had diabetes for some time, or when a diabetic has repeated episodes of high and low blood sugars, explains Luigi Meneghini, MD, director of the Kosow Diabetes Treatment Center at the Diabetes Research Institute in Florida.

"Over time, the body may not send out any warning signs at all," he says.  

For those with this condition, a continuous blood glucose monitor, Meneghini explains. "Continuous monitoring helps prevent hypoglycemia," Meneghini says. "It's very helpful in individuals who don't sense when they're getting a low blood sugar."


"Hypoglycemia. Diabetes Forecast Magazine.