St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia



    Insulin shock; Low blood sugar

    Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too low.

    Blood sugar below 70 mg/dL is considered low. Blood sugar at or below this level can harm you.


    Hypoglycemia occurs when:

    • Your body's sugar (glucose) is used up too quickly
    • Glucose is released into the bloodstream too slowly
    • Too much insulin is released into the bloodstream

    Insulin is a hormone that reduces blood sugar. It is produced by the pancreas in response to increased glucose levels in the blood.

    Low blood sugar is most commonly seen inpeople with diabetes who are taking insulin or other medicines to control their diabetes.

    Babies who are born to mothers with diabetes may have severe drops in blood sugar.

    Hypoglycemia in people who do not have diabetes may be caused by:

    • Drinking alcohol
    • Insulinoma - a rare tumor in the pancreas that produces too much insulin
    • Lack (deficiency) of a hormone, such as cortisol or thyroid hormone
    • Severe heart, kidney, or liver failure or a body-wide infection
    • Some types of weight-loss surgery


    Symptoms you may have when your blood sugar gets too low include:

    • Double vision or blurry vision
    • Fast or pounding heartbeat
    • Feeling cranky or acting aggressive
    • Feeling nervous
    • Headache
    • Hunger
    • Shaking or trembling
    • Sweating
    • Tingling or numbness of the skin
    • Tiredness or weakness
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Unclear thinking

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

    • Faint
    • Have a seizure
    • Go into a coma

    Exams and Tests

    Home monitoring of blood sugar with a fingerstick sample will show readings lower than 70 mg/dL on your glucose monitor.

    A blood glucose test in a blood sample taken from your veins will be low.


    Treatment depends on the cause. People with diabetes will need to learn how to treat and prevent low blood sugar levels.

    If hypoglycemia is caused by an insulinoma (insulin-releasing tumor), surgery to remove the tumor is the best treatment.

    Possible Complications

    Severe hypoglycemia is a medical emergency that may cause seizures and permanent brain damage. Severe hypoglycemia in which you become unconscious is also called insulin shock.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

    • GET A RIDE to the emergency room, or
    • Call a local emergency number (such as 911)

    DO NOT drive when your blood sugar is low.

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

    • Becomes less alert
    • Cannot be woken up


    Cryer PE. Hypoglycemia. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 34.


    • Food and insulin release


      • Food and insulin release


      A Closer Look

      Self Care

      Tests for Hypoglycemia

        Review Date: 6/27/2012

        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.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

        A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

        Back  |  Top
        About Us
        Contact Us
        Locations & Directions
        Quality Reports
        Annual Reports
        Honors & Awards
        Community Health Needs

        Brain & Spine
        Sleep Medicine
        Urgent Care
        Women's Services
        All Services
        Patients & Visitors
        Locations & Directions
        Find a Physician
        Tour St. Luke's
        Patient & Visitor Information
        Contact Us
        Payment Options
        Financial Assistance
        Send a Card
        Mammogram Appointments
        Health Tools
        My Personal Health
        Spirit of Women
        Health Information & Tools
        Clinical Trials
        Employer Programs -
        Passport to Wellness

        Classes & Events
        Classes & Events
        Spirit of Women
        Donate & Volunteer
        Giving Opportunities
        Physicians & Employees
        For Physicians
        Remote Access
        Medical Residency Information
        Pharmacy Residency Information
        Physician CPOE Training
        St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
        Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile