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All about hypoglycemia causes of hypoglycemia reactive hypoglycemia reactive hypoglycemia diet fasting hypoglycemia symptoms of hypoglycemia diagnosis of hypoglycemia treatments to control hypoglycemia hypoglycemia prevention

What causes hypoglycemia?

The main cause of hypoglycemia is intentional or accidental overdose of antidiabetic medication, insulin or oral drugs, or failure to eat as planned after taking those medications. There are other causes as well, both in diabetic or non-diabetic


Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate the blood glucose level. In contrast to adrenaline, insulin decreases the blood glucose level. As the blood glucose level rises after a meal, insulin is released by the pancreas to lower the glucose level. As the blood glucose falls, the insulin released from the pancreas decreases. Therefore, insulin is part of the regulatory system of the body that maintains the blood glucose in the normal range. Insulinoma is a rare tumor of the pancreas that releases a large amount of insulin without regulation. Patients with insulinomas can develop severe hypoglycemia. Special blood and radiological studies (such as CAT scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI))are required to diagnose and locate the insulinoma. Treatment consists of removing the tumor with surgery. Other cancers in the body can also produce hormones similar to insulin that cause fasting hypoglycemia.

Another serious cause of hypoglycemia is the 'insulinoma', a pancreatic tumor that is derived from B (beta) cells of islets of Langerhans. These tumours are hormonally active, producing and releasing insulin into bloodstream. C-peptide levels can distinguish between abnormally high insulin levels that result from overproduction, and those caused by administration of exogenous insulin.

Hypoglycemia is relatively common in diabetics. It occurs when too much insulin or oral antidiabetic medication is taken, not enough food is eaten, or from a sudden increase in the amount of exercise without increasing the intake of food.

Relative hypoglycemia is a fairly common occurrence in the newborn. Significant hypoglycemia may occur in a newborn infant from a gestational diabetic or a diabetic mother (called an IDM for "infant of diabetic mother"). If the mother's blood sugar was persistently high, the infant's pancreas assisted in controlling the excess blood sugar by secreting extra insulin. When the infant is born, that maternal blood sugar is no longer available and the increased insulin drives the infant's blood sugar down to dangerous levels. This is a medical emergency that may result in seizures and neurological damage if not treated.

Hypoglycemia can occur as an idiopathic (without known cause) condition. In this case, people who are not diabetic and who do not have other known causes of hypoglycemia experience symptoms of the disorder.

Some causes of hypoglycemia seem to have no specific relation to food, but fasting or vigorous exercise can trigger or worsen an episode of hypoglycemia. Rarely, a tumor in the pancreas can produce large amounts of insulin, leading to hypoglycemia. In some people, an autoimmune disorder lowers sugar levels in the blood by changing insulin secretion or by some other means. Disorders that lower hormone production by the pituitary and adrenal glands (most notably Addison's disease) can cause hypoglycemia. Certain severe diseases, such as kidney or heart failure, cancer, and shock, may also cause hypoglycemia, particularly in a person who is also being treated for diabetes.

More information on hypoglycemia

What is hypoglycemia? - Hypoglycemia is a medical term referring to a pathologic state produced and usually defined by a lower than normal amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood.
What causes hypoglycemia? - The main cause of hypoglycemia is intentional or accidental overdose of antidiabetic medication, insulin or oral drugs.
What is reactive hypoglycemia? - Reactive hypoglycemia is a condition in which the symptoms of low blood sugar appear 2 to 5 hours after eating foods high in glucose.
What reactive hypoglycemia diet is suggested? - Individuals with reactive hypoglycemia respond favorably to high-carbohydrate, high-fiber, restricted-simple sugar diets.
What is fasting hypoglycemia? - Fasting hypoglycemia, which most commonly occurs among people with diabetes when too much insulin is administered, is potentially very dangerous.
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia? - Mild hypoglycemia can cause nausea, a jittery or nervous feeling, cold and clammy skin, and a rapid heartbeat. Severe hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma.
How is hypoglycemia diagnosed? - A low sugar level in the blood found at the time a person is experiencing typical symptoms of hypoglycemia confirms the diagnosis in a person without diabetes.
What're the treatments for hypoglycemia? - The symptoms of hypoglycemia are relieved within minutes of consuming sugar in any form, such as candy or glucose tablets, or of drinking a sweet drink.
How to prevent hypoglycemia? - People with diabetes should always have ready access to emergency supplies for treating unexpected episodes of hypoglycemia. 
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005