What is Hypoglycemic Shock?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2019
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Hypoglycemic shock is a reaction to dangerously low levels of blood sugar in the body. It can be caused by a number of factors and is easy to treat in the early stages, but can become challenging to manage if it is advanced. People at risk for hypoglycemic shock are often encouraged to monitor their blood sugar levels and to be aware of the early signs and symptoms so they can take steps to address it.

Low blood sugar can be the result of having too much insulin in the blood, a release of glucose into the blood that is too low, or rapid use of glucose that results in a decline in blood glucose levels. People with low blood sugar often experience neurological symptoms because their brains are not getting enough glucose. This can include dizziness, a drunken feeling, confusion, and double vision. People can also feel antsy or restless, and experience symptoms like fatigue, shaking, sweating, and numbness. Hypoglycemic shock can progress to a coma.

The immediate treatment is an administration of carbohydrates to raise blood sugar. Hard candy and glucose tablets are two easy methods for raising blood sugar. If the patient cannot take carbohydrates by mouth, an injection of glucagon can be administered to elevate levels of glucose in the blood. It is important to avoid feeding the patient too much to prevent hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, the opposite problem.


People with diabetes are at increased risk of hypoglycemia. Even well-managed diabetes can occasionally be marked with spates of low blood sugar, especially if someone doesn't time insulin doses right, forgets to eat after exercising to compensate for increased glucose usage, or fails to eat scheduled meals on time. Kidney disease and alcoholism can also be linked with hypoglycemic shock, as can fasting, whether intentionally or accidentally.

Patients with diabetes typically carry supplies for management of low or high blood sugar and are familiar with administering treatments to themselves. They may also alert friends and family so that in the event they are unable to manage a blood sugar problem on their own, people will know what to do. It is important to follow directions given by a diabetic very carefully. Some people carry cards or wear bracelets providing information about their condition and what to do in an emergency, and these resources should be used to confirm that a treatment for hypoglycemic shock is appropriate.


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Post 11

Diabetic patients are advised to walk with wrist bands indicating they are diabetic. In case they fall due to hypoglycemic coma/shock, they can easily be helped.

Post 10

When my doctor told me that I was diabetic, he had some recommendations for me that would help me avoid hypoglycemic shock. All of his suggestions involve the way I eat.

First, he told me to avoid overeating. He said that I should never skip breakfast, and I should eat several small meals throughout the day.

All of my snacks and meals should include protein from low fat sources like turkey, chicken, fish, and skim milk. I should eat very little fat and avoid processed foods.

One interesting thing he informed me of was that vegetables differ in sugar content. Potatoes and carrots have a relatively high content when compared with squash and broccoli.

Post 9

My diabetic husband is crazy about exercise. He used to be kind of pudgy, and he overcompensates for the past by present strict physical discipline.

He eats healthy because he has to, but it has helped him lose weight. The problem that he has is that he does not like to eat after exercise, and he should be doing this to prevent hypoglycemic shock. He says that replacing all the calories he just worked so hard to burn seems counterproductive.

We made a compromise. He agreed to drink some grape juice immediately after his workouts. This seems to be working.

Post 8

My forgetful uncle has trouble remembering to treat himself carefully because of his diabetes. He was just diagnosed last year, and since then, he has gone into hypoglycemic shock several times.

At least he has learned to recognize the symptoms. His skin gets cold and pale, and his mouth becomes numb. He has heart palpitations, he sweats, and his pupils become dilated. Sometimes, he feels like he is in a mental fog.

He keeps a container of cake frosting in his house to treat the condition. He just puts a spoonful of the icing, which is almost pure sugar, into his mouth and lets it melt. It seems like a rather enjoyable way to treat an emergency condition!

Post 7

A diabetic man experiencing hypoglycemia ran into my vehicle with his car. Perhaps his blurred vision caused him to make the mistake.

Neither of us was hurt. My car’s fender suffered some damage, but once he got out of the vehicle, I knew I shouldn’t yell at him. He appeared to be in distress.

His hands were shaking, and sweat covered his forehead. At first, I thought maybe he was nervous because he had no insurance. However, as soon as he could form the words, he told me he was diabetic and needed some orange juice or something as soon as possible.

The cop who responded to the accident sent me over to a restaurant next door to grab some orange juice. The guy got a ticket for driving in his condition.

Post 6

@zeak4hands - I know lots of diabetic people, so I always try to learn about diabetes and blood sugar issues.

The movie "Mall Cop" was the first movie I saw that had a diabetic main character. At one point in the movie, he's on the floor from hypoglycemic shock and has to eat a gross sucker off of the floor.

It was a funny scene and everybody laughed, but if I was in that situation -- I would have eaten that nasty sucker too. Friends and family need to know what to watch out for and hypoglycemic shock is one of the important ones.

Post 5

I remember it my first aid class, the teacher covered diabetic emergencies in class. He said that it's better to give a diabetic more sugar than they need, than not give them any sugar at all.

If the person is in hypoglycemic shock -- not giving them sugar will do way more damage. He said that if they already have to much sugar in their system, a little more is not going to complicate things -- but will save their life if they are too low.

I have a best friend that's diabetic – so it's good to know this kind of information.

Post 4

Keeping your blood sugar at normal levels can be really tricky for some people. I had a friend in school who would always start shaking like a leaf if she exerted herself too much. The doctors figured out she was experiencing the initial symptoms of hypoglycemic shock.

My friend wasn't diagnosed with diabetes until after these symptoms started to appear. Her mother luckily made the connection with her feeling woozy and shaky after exercise with possibly having issues with her insulin levels. It became especially apparent when she got better after downing a chocolate bar or sugary drink.

Luckily her condition is well under control now and she can maintain her lifestyle without medication. She follows a strict diet and that serves her well.

I think if you experience any kind of strange fatigue and shakiness after exercise you should see a doctor.

Post 3

My mother suffers from hypoglycemia because her blood sugar tends to drop low due to her diabetes. While she usually takes good care of herself, sometimes there is a slip up with her insulin and she miscalculates what she needs. Often this results in her feeling really dizzy and getting confused.

To help with my mother's hypoglycemic episodes she always carries small candies in her purse. These are packed with sugar and sucking on one usually makes her feel better right away.

A good thing for a loved one with hypoglycemia is to carry a note in their wallet explaining their condition. Some hypoglycemics have been arrested for 'public drunkenness', so a simple note can really clear things up. Sometimes diabetic clinics offer little cards you can carry around that work in place of a note.

Post 2

@Bhutan - I know what you mean. I read that hypoglycemia can also stem from diabetes which seems like the opposite problem. I thought that that was interesting.

I read that if you are taking medication for diabetes it will lower your blood sugar and if the dosage is not right it can cause hypoglycemia to occur. It also happens if you take the diabetes medication on an empty stomach which is why you should always eat something when taking this type of medication.

It can also happen when you drink too much on an empty stomach or if you have liver or kidney problems already. Sometimes people that have had bypass surgery can develop this condition after they eat.

I was reading that hypoglycemia that is not treated by a doctor can result in fainting spells and even death.

Post 1

My aunt had problems with hypoglycemia and she would have to have hard candy in her purse at all times. This really helped to get her blood sugar at a normal level.

I always heard that eating beans and foods with cinnamon and ginger also stabilize blood sugar levels. It also helps to fight cravings because the blood sugar is normal.

I am glad that I don’t have this condition because it sounds scary if you don’t have access to candy right away.

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