Low Blood Sugar

Conor78

New Member
Relationship to Diabetes
Type 1
Hi
I work in a school and we have a pupil with Type 1. I have completed some of the training and have a understanding of the basics. One thing that I don't get is the connection between low blood sugar levels and insulin. I understand that the lack of insulin means that the danger is overloading the body with glucose. Does Type 1 cause a reduction in blood sugar levels.
Secondly in someone who doesn't have Diabetes what is their normal blood sugar levels and if it drops to a 4 mmol do they have similar effects.
Thanks in advance,
 

Sally71

Well-Known Member
Relationship to Diabetes
Parent
Eating carbohydrate makes blood glucose go up, insulin makes it go down, so you've basically got a balancing act between food and insulin to try to keep blood glucose levels within the normal range. So if you eat too much carbohydrate or don’t take enough insulin, your blood glucose level will be too high. If you take too much insulin, or don’t eat enough carbs for the insulin you've taken, your blood glucose will drop too low. And then you need some sugar quickly to bring it back up again, or if you are too high you need insulin to bring it back down.

That's it in a nutshell, although extremely oversimplified - things like hormones, illness, activity levels, stress, what day of the week it is etc etc can all have an effect on blood sugar. And everybody is different, doses of insulin and timings required etc are very different from one person to the next, and how different things affect each person also varies. So trying to balance it all the time is virtually impossible!

A person without diabetes should also have blood sugars in the same normal range, it's just that theirs is automatically regulated by the pancreas and will stay within that range almost all the time without the person even being aware that anything is happening. Dealing with diabetes certainly makes you realise how clever your body is when it works properly! It is possible for a non-diabetic to drop a little below 4, I don't have it and have tested at 3.6 before and felt fine! (Although the meters aren’t perfect either and it's possible I wasn’t actually quite that low). But if you've ever been dashing around and had your lunch late and felt a bit wobbly or dizzy, it might be that your blood sugar had dropped a bit too far, but your body will recognise the problem and deal with it before it reaches danger levels, a type 1 diabetic's can’t.
 
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Inka

Well-Known Member
Relationship to Diabetes
Type 1
Hi @Conor78 :)

Type 1 causes an increase in blood sugar not a reduction. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks crucial insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. When enough of these cells have been destroyed, the body is no longer able to control blood sugar and it shoots far too high, leading to the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.

Important - if someone’s blood sugar level is too low (a hypo) they need glucose/sugar to put it back up and they need this urgently. Never give them insulin - it could be fatal.

The connection between insulin and low blood sugar levels is that too much insulin can cause the blood sugar to drop too low. That’s why Type 1 is a constant balance - balancing food and insulin so that you neither go too high nor too low. It’s a hard job.

In people who don’t have diabetes, their body works to keep the blood sugar in a normal range. 4mmol is within that normal range, 3mmol (for example) isn’t. There are a few rare things that can cause low blood sugar in people without diabetes, but generally everything works perfectly to keep the blood sugar in range.
 

Inka

Well-Known Member
Relationship to Diabetes
Type 1
I understand that the lack of insulin means that the danger is overloading the body with glucose. Does Type 1 cause a reduction in blood sugar levels”

Sorry if I sounded over-emphatic in my first post but it’s your statement above that caused me concern. It’s a common misconception that people with Type 1 diabetes suffer with low blood sugar (hypos) and that they need insulin to stop this. That’s completely the wrong way round. Type 1 is not a condition of low blood sugar. Insulin puts blood sugar down (not up). As someone who’s had Type 1 for many years, I live in fear that some helpful person will find me hypo (low blood sugar) and think I need some insulin! No - I would need some glucose/sugar.

Who is providing your training?
 

everydayupsanddowns

Administrator
Staff member
Relationship to Diabetes
Type 1
Great that you have joined the forum to better understand diabetes and support the pupil @Conor78 :)

The other point I would make about hypoglycaemia is that the person with T1 diabetes should ALWAYS carry a stash of fast acting carbohydrate / glucose with them (lucozade... dextrose tablets... jelly babies... skittles...) so that they can treat hypoglycaemia exactly where they are.

On no account should a pupil be sent off halfway round the school to a special medical room where their hypo treatments are kept. Hypoglycaemia can be a real ‘nothing’ event, and it’s easy to become relaxed... but it is also potentially very serious, and things can change very quickly if the levels continue to fall to a point where there is confusion, incoherence, stumbling, slurring, visual disturbance and even collapse!
 

everydayupsanddowns

Administrator
Staff member
Relationship to Diabetes
Type 1
Secondly in someone who doesn't have Diabetes what is their normal blood sugar levels and if it drops to a 4 mmol do they have similar effects.
People without diabetes certainly can experience hypoglycaemia, though it is rare.

Usually at 3.7-4.0 people would simply feel a bit spaced out and hungry (if they get any symptoms at all).

Endurance event athletes may sometimes experience more ‘full-on’ hypos if not properly fuelled, and there are certain medical conditions that can cause them... but most ‘nonnys’ would keep their BG between 3.8ish and 8.5ish no matter what they ate, or what activity they undertook.
 

trophywench

Well-Known Member
Relationship to Diabetes
Type 1
The prob with the level falling under 4 for a type 1 diabetic is that once it gets to below 3.5 - it affects our brain so often can't answer any questions, even simple ones such as What's your name? coherently*. If we go that low too often - lasting brain damage could ensue. (I haven't only read that in the literature either - hasn't happened to me personally but have witnessed it with a late 20yo man, a husband and father, who became violent and malicious, which did not improve with time. Dreadful.)

I wholly remember me going hypo as an adult and my husband ringing 999 cos we were out on his motorbike so relevant questions asked and answered by him before they loaded me and off we went, (husband also breaking speed limits on bike behind us as not in home area and didn't know the hospital.) Ambulance lady in the back with me asked me my name en route, which I knew for a fact husband had given them cos I heard him before, explaining my prob and they loaded me, and so when she then asked again, Don't you know your name? I thought, Oh for Goodness sake - this is boring, just get me there and get the glucose drip up will you! so replied Of course I know my name! - just can't be bothered to tell you! as sharply as I could at the time and then thought I'd just pretend to be out of it, which I was pleased I had, cos she subsequently proceeded to tell the A&E staff exactly that, and they all laughed, so I stayed 'passed out' until I reckoned it was safe to 'come round' again - and did so.

It not only 'can' affect the brain - it absolutely does.
 
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