The Effects of Low Blood Sugar

Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood glucose or low blood sugar, happens when blood sugar levels drop below normal range. Hypoglycemia is generally mild and rare in healthy adults with no known glucose or insulin-related problems. Most commonly, hypoglycemia results as a side effect of diabetes, though it may be caused by medications or other illnesses. For best results, discuss symptoms of low blood sugar with your doctor.

Mental Confusion

In order for your brain to function properly, it requires a steady supply of energy, in the form of glucose–sugars reaped from carbohydrates in food. If glucose levels drop too low, your mental clarity may suffer. According to the Mayo Clinic, hypoglycemia can cause mental confusion and impaired ability to complete usual tasks. Your vision may become blurred, also as a result of low blood sugar’s impact on the brain. If you exhibit mental impairments such as these and suspect fallen blood sugar as the culprit, seek guidance from your doctor. Immediate remedies that may help raise your blood sugar to healthy levels include consumption of glucose tablets, glucose gel, 1/2 half cup of fruit juice, 1 cup of milk or 1 tablespoon of honey. Keep in mind that low blood sugar is generally a symptom of an additional problem, and not an illness itself. If the cause of your blood sugar disturbance is unknown, seek guidance from your doctor.

Anxiety or Shakiness

People experiencing hypoglycemia often exhibit anxiousness or physical shakiness. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, such symptoms may be prevented in people with diabetes by taking diabetes medications properly, following a diabetes-friendly meal plan, monitoring blood sugar levels consistently and avoiding alcohol and an empty stomach. Delayed meals, consuming too little food and increased exercise may also contribute to hypoglycemia. Since anxiety and shakiness are common symptoms of other conditions, such as anxiety disorders and excessive caffeine intake, be sure to observe additional symptoms, potential causes of your decreased blood sugar and any known medical conditions. If mild symptoms do not reverse once you’ve attempted to “fix” them, consult your doctor.

Heart Palpitations or Loss of Conciousness

Hypoglycemia may lead to heart palpitations or loss of consciousness. If your heart rate increases significantly, you may also experience physical tremors in your hands or other body parts, increased body temperature and sweating. Loss of consciousness, though rare, can occur as a result of severe hypoglycemia, particularly if left untreated. If severe symptoms such as these arise, seek prompt medical attention. The Mayo Clinic suggests that people who know they have diabetes refer to their doctors rather than attempting to reverse low blood sugar symptoms on their own. In most cases, once underlying causes of low blood sugar are addressed, symptoms of hypoglycemia dissolve.

About this Author

August J. McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as “Healthy Aging,” “CitySmart,” “IAmThatGirl” and “ULM.” She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit – a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.