Managing Blood Glucose

Hypoglycemia – Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

If you, or someone you care for has diabetes and takes insulin, you must know the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. The life of someone with diabetes could depend on your knowing what is happening and what to do.


Mild Hypoglycemia

  • Increased or sudden hunger
  • Feeling shaky, dizzy or nervous
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Drowsiness, feeling tired
  • Sweating (cold and clammy)
  • Numbness/tingling around mouth
  • Headache or stomachache

Moderate Hypoglycemia

Any mild symptoms above, plus:

  • Personality change
  • Irritability
  • Confusion and/or difficulty concentrating
  • Slurred or slow speech
  • Poor coordination

Severe Hypoglycemia

Any of the above symptoms plus:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures and/or convulsions
  • Death

Severe hypoglycemia requires injection of glucagon.

Other Important Information About Hypoglycemia

Onset. Rapid; sudden, may not be preventable, and can lead to coma and death within minutes if not treated.

Causes Related to Diabetes: Missing snacks or meals, eating too little food, taking too much insulin, too much activity, side effects of medications taken, or a combination of these things.

Normal & Target Blood Glucose Ranges (mg/dL)
For Adult Persons with Diabetes

Before Meal.                                                90-130
1- 2 hours after the start of a meal         less than 180
Hypoglycemia (low) at any time                70 or below

Normal & Target Blood Glucose Ranges (mg/dL)
For Non-Diabetic Persons

Upon Waking (fasting.                                 70 – 110After Meals                                                  70-140

Important Note. Your doctor may provide you with different target ranges so be sure to know he/she recommends for your blood glucose levels.

Glucose levels are measured in either:

  • Milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), in the United States
  • Millimoles per liter (mmol/L) (for those using metric system)

Glucose levels vary before and after meals, at various times of day, as well as throughout the night in persons with diabetes as well as in non-diabetics.

ALERT. Untreated highs and any high over 240 mg/dL can lead to diabetic ketoacidiosis (DKA) which can result in coma and/or death. Test urine for ketones and call your doctor for instructions anytime ketones are in the moderate or higher range no matter what your blood glucose level is.