Know the Signs of Diabetes to Prevent an Emergency Situation

For many seniors, the signs of diabetes — increased thirst, frequent urination, feeling hungry when you’ve already eaten, fatigue, blurry vision, and unusual weight loss — can be hard to spot. It is important, though, to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible, because uncontrolled diabetes can cause severe damage to your body and can even lead to an emergency condition known as diabetic hypoglycemia.

What Is Diabetic Hypoglycemia?

As a diabetic, you have to monitor your blood sugar levels closely to ensure they stay within the recommended range. Increased blood sugar levels, known as hyperglycemia, can cause damage over time. You could lose your eyesight or even need to have a limb amputated.

The opposite of this condition is hypoglycemia, when your blood sugar levels drop too low. This can quickly become an emergency situation, with life-threatening symptoms. When the initial symptoms aren’t addressed quickly, a low blood sugar level can lead to an increased risk of falling, fainting, seizures, and even coma.

Anytime you experience low blood sugar, you should eat something with around 15 grams of carbohydrates, according to Medline Plus, which should raise your blood sugar enough to halt the symptoms. Some diabetics carry glucose tablets or hard candy for this reason. Fruit juice can be another good choice.

What Are the Signs of Diabetes with Low Blood Sugar?

For most diabetics, low blood sugar is considered any level below 70 mg/dL. Some people may experience symptoms above this level, and others may not be symptomatic until their levels are significantly lower. According to the American Diabetes Association, early symptoms of low blood sugar may include:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heartbeat

In case you aren’t able to treat your low blood sugar on your own, it’s important for your caregivers to know the symptoms and how to treat them. If you’ve been prescribed glucagon, your close friends and family members should be trained on when and how to inject the drug.

How Can I Prevent Low Blood Sugar?

Most people find that it’s much easier to prevent diabetic hypoglycemia than to treat it. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse recommends that diabetics check their blood sugar regularly. This is especially true while exercising or performing other strenuous activities. Creating a healthy meal plan that includes regular snacks can also help regulate your blood sugar. Finally, diabetics should not drink more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day, according to Medline Plus, and should always have food with their drinks.

When Does It Become an Emergency?

If the symptoms persist after eating a high-carbohydrate snack, you should seek medical attention immediately. Have a friend or family member drive you to the nearest emergency department or call 911. Diabetics may also want to subscribe to a medical alert system and wear a medical alert device at all times, in case this emergency situation occurs when you’re alone. The effects of diabetic hypoglycemia may make it difficult to dial a telephone or otherwise call for help.

Seniors with diabetes are at risk for a number of complications if they do not control their blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can lead to lasting damage, and low blood sugar can quickly become an emergency situation. For this reason, it is important to know the signs of hypoglycemia and how to raise your blood sugar back to the appropriate level.

See also
Caregivers

Caregivers

Are you caring for an aging parent or loved one? At times, it can be stressful, but you are not on your own! Try our expert advice for managing family issues, keeping mom independent and more. more

Healthcare Pros

Healthcare Pros

Whether you’re a nurse, case worker, doctor or another healthcare professional, you know aging patients have unique needs. Explore our resources for working with this growing population. more

Seniors

Seniors

We all get older, but how you do it is up to you. We have articles and tools to help you live independently and enjoy life the way you want to, as well as other important topics as you age. more