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Hypoglycaemia

Support and treatment to help you take control of your blood sugar levels and stay healthy and well

Reactive hypoglycaemia is a condition in which blood glucose levels fall dangerously low following a meal. Hypos can make you feel dizzy, weak and unwell and, if not properly managed, they can put your wellbeing at risk.

Reactive hypoglycaemia can affect people living with diabetes, but can also impact those who are not affected by the disease, particularly following bariatric surgery. The London Diabetes Centre provides customised, comprehensive care for reactive hypoglycaemia.

What is reactive hypoglycaemia?

Reactive hypoglycaemia is also known as post prandial hypoglycaemia. It’s a condition in which the blood glucose levels fall to dangerously low levels following a meal.

For people with diabetes, careful adjustment of the meal and medication timings can help overcome reactive hypoglycaemia. However, for many people, the underlying cause of the condition is frustratingly unclear.

The physicians at the London Diabetes Centre are experts in the assessment, investigation and treatment of reactive hypoglycaemia. Falls in blood glucose after a meal can be the result of too much insulin release, particularly following a carbohydrate-rich meal. Alcohol, surgical procedures, hormonal imbalances, metabolic disorders and some rare tumours can also predispose to the condition.

If you are affected by reactive hypoglycaemia, the specialists at the London Diabetes Centre can evaluate your health, identify any underlying disease and work with you to keep your blood glucose under control and improve your quality of life.

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Symptoms of reactive hypoglycaemia

The symptoms of reactive hypoglycaemia typically come on within four hours of a meal. The specific symptoms and signs can vary between individuals but can include:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hunger
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Clamminess or sweating

For some people, symptoms can be experienced despite having a normal blood glucose on clinical testing. This is known as post prandial syndrome and is thought to be triggered by the food eaten and the movement of the food through the digestive tract. If you often feel unwell following meals, the specialists at the London Diabetes Centre can help.

Treatment of reactive hypoglycaemia at the London Diabetes Centre

The consultant diabetologists at the London Diabetes Centre will make a thorough assessment of your health, your symptoms and your lifestyle. The specialists may arrange blood tests and investigations in the cutting-edge imaging suite, to check for any underlying disease that could be triggering the problem. They will then customise a treatment programme to help manage your symptoms. This can include:

Careful diabetes control: For people with diabetes, careful diabetes control can help reduce the risk of post-prandial hypos. Close glucose monitoring is a key factor in controlling blood glucose levels. The use of medication in diabetes that does not cause hypoglycaemias can substitute for those that do. The London Diabetes Centre offers the latest continuous glucose monitors (CGM), including implantable devices so that you can actively manage your diabetes. Devices are available with alarms to notify you of hypos so that you can take swift and appropriate action.

Treatment of underlying conditions: If an illness, metabolic disorder, tumour or surgical complication is causing the hypoglycaemia, specialist referral and treatment can be arranged at London Medical.

For most people with non-diabetic reactive hypoglycaemia medical treatment is not necessary, instead, the condition can be controlled with careful modification of diet, lifestyle and activity:

Lifestyle changes: Cutting down on alcohol and eating whenever alcohol is drunk can reduce symptoms, Exercising regularly helps to increase glucose uptake and reduces insulin release.

Low glycaemic Non-diabetic hypoglycaemia diet: The specialist dieticians at the London Diabetes Centre can advise on the best nutrition to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Eating a non-diabetic hypoglycaemia low glycaemic diet can help. This is a healthy balanced diet focused on lean protein, vegetables, pulses, healthy fats and whole grains. Carbohydrates and sugary foods or drinks should be avoided. It’s important to eat small meals, no more than 3 hours apart to maintain your energy and help stop your sugar levels dropping.

Frequently Asked Questions

A hypo happens when blood glucose falls too low. It’s short for hypoglycaemia. You may feel weak, dizzy, clammy and faint. Or you may just be grumpy, tearful and moody, it can affect people in different ways.

A hyper happens when blood glucose rises too high. It’s an abbreviation of hyperglycaemia. When your sugars are high, you may get some of the symptoms that you suffered when you were first diagnosed with diabetes. So, you may find that you’re tired, thirsty, have blurred vision and are weeing all the time. However, you may have no symptoms at all, which is why it’s so important to monitor your glucose levels regularly.

If you have diabetes and your blood glucose level is low, it needs urgent treatment with glucose tablets or another source of sugar. Having high glucose levels for a short time is unlikely to be a problem, but if it’s too high for too long it can cause a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Drink plenty of unsweetened fluids and contact your GP, call NHS 111 or get in touch with the specialist team at the London Diabetes Centre for advice.

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