Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My doctor says I have hypoglycemia. Isn’t that the opposite of diabetes?

Yes, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is the opposite of the hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) that characterizes diabetes. Certain  treatments for diabetes and several conditions  unrelated  to  diabetes  can  cause  hypo- glycemia.  The  most common  form of hypoglycemia occurs in otherwise  healthy young individuals, more commonly in women than  men, and is quite benign, although it can be associated with  distressing symp- toms. Fortunately, it is usually treatable by adjustment of the composition and timing of meals. Sometimes, hypoglycemia can be caused by serious conditions and your doctor will be able to determine whether you are one of the small percentage of people who needs fur- ther investigation and specialist referral.

It is important  to note that hypoglycemia can be an early  feature of diabetes. This  type of hypoglycemia occurs in  people  with  prediabetes (see Question  9) who are resistant to  the action of insulin and yet are still capable of mounting  a  vigorous insulin release from the pancreas to overcome it. In the later stages of absorption of calories from a meal, the insulin  levels may remain high as the blood glucose level is falling quite rapidly. This may lead to a temporary but some- times distressing period of low blood sugar that usually occurs about 3 to 5 hours  after a meal. It  tends to resolve if the prediabetes progresses to frank diabetes, but in some people, it may persist for some years. It is also often  treatable  by dietary  adjustment  or  other means.

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