How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low – Clinically reviewed by Kelly Wood, MD — by Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA — updated June 30, 2023

Eating too few carbohydrates or taking certain medications can cause you to have low blood sugar. Treatment may include simple carbohydrates, medications, or urgent medical care, depending on the severity.

How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) drops below a certain range. If your blood sugar drops too low, you may need immediate treatment.

What You Need To Know About Managing Your Blood Sugar

This article will take a closer look at hypoglycemia, including symptoms and treatment, and how to prevent your blood sugar from getting too low.

Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Blood sugar is also known as blood glucose. If your cells don’t get glucose, your body can’t perform their specific functions.

A short-term drop in blood glucose can also cause problems. In this condition, prompt treatment to lower blood sugar levels can prevent serious symptoms such as loss of consciousness.

If you have this condition, your blood sugar may drop without you noticing. Without immediate treatment, you may faint, become dizzy, or go into a coma.

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If you are not aware of hypoglycemia, you may need to check your blood sugar levels more regularly. A doctor may recommend a continuous glucose monitor, a device that can alert you to changes in your blood sugar levels.

If you have diabetes and experience symptoms of mild to moderate hypoglycemia, you should immediately eat or drink 15 grams (grams) of easily digestible carbohydrates.

Very low blood sugar is a medical emergency. If you or someone else with diabetes experiences serious symptoms, such as loss of consciousness, it is important to give a medicine called glucagon and contact local emergency services immediately.

How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

Do not give anything by mouth to an unconscious person, as this may cause choking. If you have diabetes, make sure your family and friends don’t do this in case you pass out.

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Low blood sugar can be caused by many reasons. It is usually a side effect of diabetes treatment.

If you have diabetes, your treatment can sometimes cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low. Hypoglycemia can also occur if you:

If you have untreated diabetes or don’t know you have diabetes, you may experience low or high blood sugar. You can help manage your blood sugar levels with diet changes, regular exercise, and, if necessary, medication.

The composition of your meals can cause your blood sugar levels to drop after eating. Contributing factors may include:

Surprising Causes Of Blood Sugar Fluctuations

If you suspect your blood sugar is low, it’s important to check your blood sugar right away. If you don’t have a blood glucose meter and are taking diabetes medications that increase insulin, talk to your doctor about getting a meter.

If you experience low blood sugar a few times a week, talk to your doctor right away to find out the cause. They may begin your visit by requesting your medical history, asking questions about your eating habits, and learning more about your symptoms.

If you do not have diabetes but suspect hypoglycemia, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Doctors will use three criteria to diagnose low blood sugar, sometimes called Whipple’s Triad:

How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

Your doctor may send you home with a blood glucose meter to track your blood sugar periodically at home. They may ask you to check your blood sugar at certain times of the day, such as after waking up and after meals.

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To test blood sugar, you need to prick your finger with a lancet (provided in the blood glucose test kit). You will place a small sample of blood on a strip inserted into the blood glucose meter.

Before you test your blood sugar at home, it’s important to find out from your doctor what a healthy blood sugar range is for you. Doctors will determine this category based on the following factors:

If you don’t have a blood glucose meter and you have symptoms of low blood sugar along with diabetes, your symptoms may be enough to diagnose low blood sugar.

You can treat hypoglycemia by raising your blood sugar. It is important to treat low blood sugar as soon as possible.

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The American Diabetes Association recommends eating at least 15 grams of carbohydrates per day to raise your blood sugar. Options include:

You can also take glucose tablets to quickly raise your blood sugar if it’s low, but it’s important to determine how many grams of carbs are in each tablet before taking them.

Wait 15 minutes after eating or taking a glucose tablet and check your blood sugar again. If your blood sugar is not above 70 mg/dL, eat another 15 grams of carbohydrates or take another dose of glucose tablets. Repeat this until your blood sugar level starts to rise.

How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

If your blood sugar does not respond, contact a doctor or emergency services immediately. Symptoms of low blood sugar usually get worse if left untreated and can be life-threatening.

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If you are at risk for low blood sugar, a doctor may recommend a glucagon kit. This medicine increases your blood sugar levels.

You can also talk to people you keep in touch with about how to take care of you if your blood sugar gets too low. including:

Wearing a medical identification bracelet can help emergency responders get proper care if you need urgent medical attention.

If you have diabetes and have frequent low blood sugar levels or symptoms, but do not have diabetes, you should see a doctor.

Non Fasting Glucose Levels

Blood sugar levels are slightly lower for people with diabetes. However, severe blood sugar levels can be life-threatening. Complications may include:

Avoid driving if you experience low blood sugar, as this can increase your risk of an accident.

Checking your blood sugar levels regularly can help you keep them in your target range. If you have had low blood sugar in the past, you may want to test your blood sugar before driving or operating machinery.

How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

If it’s more than 5 hours until your next full meal or your blood sugar level is below 100 mg/dL, consider eating breakfast before you leave home.

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It’s always a good idea to keep carbohydrate-rich snacks on hand in case your blood sugar drops when you’re out and about.

Exercise uses up energy, so if you haven’t eaten enough beforehand, it can cause your blood sugar to drop quickly. Check your blood sugar 1-2 hours before exercise to make sure it is in your target range.

If you plan to exercise for an hour or more, eat extra carbs during your workout. Exercise gels, sports drinks, granola bars, and even candy bars can provide your body with quick glucose during exercise.

After moderate to vigorous exercise, your blood sugar can drop for up to 24 hours. Doctors recommend checking your blood sugar levels immediately after exercise and every 2-4 hours until bedtime. Avoid vigorous exercise right before bed.

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If you follow a meal plan or take medications that increase your insulin levels, it’s important to stick to the plan your doctor prescribes to help lower blood sugar.

Not eating the right foods at the right time or taking the right medications can cause your blood sugar to drop. Check in with your doctor frequently so they can adjust your treatment plan if and when necessary.

I recently started a weight loss program and my blood sugar levels after breakfast are dropping drastically. Any advice?

How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

It sounds like you may be experiencing reactive hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar after meals, which is most likely caused by a change in diet.

How To Reduce Blood Sugar Level Immediately (+ Foods To Eat)

To manage this problem, I recommend consistent and frequent meals and snacks every 3-4 hours that contain a mix of high fiber carbs, fat and protein.

Eating high-fiber carbohydrates is important because they provide the body with the sugar it needs, but they also cause the body to release insulin.

Make sure to add some protein or fat to all of your meals and snacks. Protein and fat help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps manage insulin release and allows for slow and steady digestion of carbohydrates.

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

How To Test Your Blood Glucose

Hypoglycemia is most common in people with diabetes. But it can also happen in people who don’t have diabetes, especially because of medication or a medical condition.

If you experience mild or moderate symptoms, it is important to eat or drink 15 grams of easily digestible carbohydrates. If your blood sugar drops too low, it can be life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.

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How To Know If Your Blood Sugar Is Low

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