Diabetes - low blood sugar - self-care

Alternate Names

Hypoglycemia - self-care

What Is Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is low. Blood sugars below this level can harm you.

If you have diabetes and are taking any of these diabetes medications, you are at risk for low blood sugar:

Recognizing Low Blood Sugar

Know how to tell when your blood sugar is getting low. Symptoms are:

Sometimes your blood sugar may be too low even if you do not have symptoms. If it gets too low, you may:

Check Your Blood Sugar Often

Talk with your doctor or nurse about when you should check your blood sugar every day. People who have low blood sugar need to check their blood sugar more often.

The most common causes of low blood sugar are:

Preventing Low Blood Sugar

Preventing low blood sugar is better than having to treat it.

Family and friends should know how to help. They should know:

If you have diabetes, always wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This way emergency medical workers will know you have diabetes.

When Your Blood Sugar Gets Low

Check your blood sugar whenever you have symptoms of low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is below 70 mg/dL, treat yourself right away. Eat something that has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. Examples are:

Wait about 15 minutes before eating any more. Be careful not to eat too much. This can cause high blood sugar and weight gain.

Check your blood sugar.

If you don't feel better in 15 minutes, and your blood sugar is still low (less than 70 mg/dL), eat something with 15 grams of carbohydrate again.

You may need to eat a snack with carbohydrates and protein if:

Ask your doctor or nurse how to manage this situation.

If these steps for raising your blood sugar do not work, call your doctor right away.

Talk to Your Doctor or Nurse

If you use insulin and you are having a lot of low blood sugars, ask your doctor or nurse if you:

Do not make any changes without talking to your doctor or nurse first.

When to Call the Doctor

If signs of low blood sugar do not improve after you have eaten a snack that contains sugar:

Do NOT drive when your blood sugar is low.

Get medical help right away for a person with diabetes or low blood sugar if they:


Cryer PE. Glucose Homeostasis and Hypoglycemia. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 33.

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2012. Diabetes Care. 2012 Jan;35 Suppl 1:S11-63. 

Review Date: 9/12/2012
Reviewed By: Shehzad Topiwala, MD, Chief Consultant Endocrinologist, Premier Medical Associates, The Villages, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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