Hypoglycemia in Children
What is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is the condition of having a glucose (blood sugar) level that is too low to effectively fuel the body's blood cells. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body. The good range of blood sugar is approximately 70 to 150 mg/dl (milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood). However, consult your child's physician for more specific information, as the normal blood glucose range for each child may vary.
Hypoglycemia may be a condition by itself, or may be a complication of diabetes or another disorder. It is most often seen as a complication of diabetes, which is sometimes referred to as insulin reaction.
What causes hypoglycemia?
Causes of hypoglycemia in children with diabetes may include the following:
An additional cause of hypoglycemia in children includes a condition called hyperinsulinism. This may occur as a result of abnormal cell development of the special "beta" cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin or from a mass in the pancreas. Some children are also born with errors in their metabolism that can lead to hypoglycemia.
Other causes of hypoglycemia in children are rare. However, hypoglycemia may occur after strenuous exercise, during prolonged fasting, or as a result of taking certain medications or abusing alcohol.
Why is hypoglycemia a concern?
The brain depends on blood glucose as its main source of fuel. Too little glucose can impair the brain's ability to function. Severe or prolonged hypoglycemia may result in seizures and serious brain injury.
What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?
The following are the most common symptoms for hypoglycemia. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
Pale skin color
Sudden moodiness or behavior changes, such as crying for no apparent reason
Clumsy or jerky movements
Difficulty paying attention, or confusion
Tingling sensations around the mouth
The symptoms of hypoglycemia may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, certain blood tests are performed to diagnose hypoglycemia.
When a child with diabetes has symptoms of hypoglycemia, then the cause is usually diagnosed as a complication of diabetes, or insulin reaction.
For those who have symptoms of hypoglycemia and do not have diabetes, the disorder is diagnosed by:
Laboratory tests to measure insulin production may also be performed.
Treatment for hypoglycemia
Specific treatment for hypoglycemia will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the disorder
Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the disorder
Your opinion or preference
For children with diabetes, the goal of treatment is to maintain a blood sugar level that is appropriate for each child. This involves testing blood sugar often, learning to recognize oncoming symptoms, and treating the condition quickly, based on instructions given by your child's physician.
To treat low blood sugar immediately, your child should eat or drink something that has sugar in it, such as orange juice, milk, or a hard candy. For children who do not have diabetes, treatment for hypoglycemia may include:
Avoiding foods high in carbohydrates
Eating smaller meals more frequently
Eating a variety of healthy foods
Children who have hyperinsulinism may require treatment with medications to decrease the production of insulin the body. In more serious cases, the child may have to undergo surgery to remove the pancreas.