Hypoglycemia

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Hypoglycemia or flop (not to be confused with Hyperglycemia) is the medical term for a state produced by a lower than normal level of blood glucose.[1] The term literally means "under-sweet blood" (Gr. υπογλυκαιμία, from hypo-, glykys, haima). It can produce a variety of symptoms and effects but the principal problems arise from an inadequate supply of glucose to the brain, resulting in impairment of function (neuroglycopenia). Effects can range from vaguely "feeling bad" to seizures, unconsciousness, and (rarely) permanent brain damage or death.

The most common forms of hypoglycemia occur as a complication of treatment of diabetes mellitus with insulin or oral medications. Hypoglycemia is less common in non-diabetic persons, but can occur at any age, from many causes. Among the causes are excessive insulin produced in the body (hyperinsulinemia), inborn errors of metabolism, medications and poisons, alcohol, hormone deficiencies, prolonged starvation, alterations of metabolism associated with infection, and organ failure.

Hypoglycemia is treated by restoring the blood glucose level to normal by the ingestion or administration of dextrose or carbohydrate foods. In some circumstances it is treated by injection or infusion of glucagon. Recurrent hypoglycemia may be prevented by reversing or removing the underlying cause, by increasing the frequency of meals, with medications like diazoxide, octreotide, or glucocorticoids, or by surgical removal of much of the pancreas.

The level of blood glucose low enough to define hypoglycemia may be different for different people, in different circumstances, and for different purposes, and occasionally has been a matter of controversy. Most healthy adults maintain fasting glucose levels above 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L), and develop symptoms of hypoglycemia when the glucose falls below 55 mg/dL (3 mmol/L).[2] It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether a person's symptoms are due to hypoglycemia. Criteria referred to as Whipple's triad are used to determine a diagnosis of hypoglycemia:[3]

Hypoglycemia (common usage) is also a term in popular culture and alternative medicine for a common, often self-diagnosed, condition characterized by shakiness and altered mood and thinking, but without measured low glucose or risk of severe harm. It is treated by changing eating patterns.

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