Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of high and low blood sugar can save your life! In patients on medications for diabetes, recognizing and correcting a low blood sugar early is extremely important. Additionally, symptoms of high blood sugar can happen to anyone, even if they are unaware that they have developed diabetes. In this lesson, we follow 2 snails in a race to understand their blood sugar levels!
Two small snails are about to take part in a race. One snail is “hyped-up,” and ready to sprint to the finish line. The other snail is weak and slow getting to the starting line. These snails will help us to explain the symptoms that can occur with high and low blood sugars. The gun fires, but “slow-snail” is confused and does not take off. This is because her blood sugar is low, a condition doctors call hypoglycemia. Having adequate sugar in the blood is important, as this is how sugar is carried to the brain. When the brain has too little sugar, it can result in shakiness, feeling clammy, and weak.
Other symptoms include blurred vision, confusion, intense hunger, heart racing, and headache. Having a low blood sugar can be extremely dangerous, even causing fainting or seizures. “Slow-snail” could have recognized the early symptoms of hypoglycemia before heading off to the competition. When symptoms arise, the blood sugar level should be checked immediately.
With hypoglycemia, the glucose level will often be less than 70, although some will feel similar symptoms at numbers that are slightly higher. After confirming a low sugar level, the individual should immediately eat or drink something that has approximately 15 grams of simple sugar or carbohydrates. Our “slow-snail” could have taken a plunge into a one-half of a cup of juice or 1 cup of low fat milk. Lastly, the finger-stick check should always be repeated 15 minutes later to ensure that the value has increased to above 70. If not, another 15 grams of sugar should be consumed until the level improves.
Now, back to the race! The other runner, the “hyped-up” snail, represents high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia. While this snail won the race easily, he was really only running fast because he had the urge to urinate. To better understand the symptoms that elevated blood sugars can cause, we will follow our “hyped-up” snail on his way to celebrate his victory with a vacation. Since he hates airplane trips, he asks his best buddy to join him. No matter where our “hyped-up” snail travels, he drags his best friend along. Extra-sugar in the body is no different than our hyper-snail, because when sugar travels, it draws water with it wherever it goes. If the glucose level in the blood is elevated past a certain point, it will spill out of the blood and into the urine, dragging water with it.
The end result is that the frequency of urination increases, making the individual very thirsty, and fatigued. If this problem persists over time, the individual can experience blurry vision, poor wound healing, and significant weight loss.
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