Drug Induced Hypoglycemia

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Hypoglycemia,means that the blood glucose level is too low to be in a healthy range. Drug-induced means that this low blood glucose level has been caused bydrugs or medicines.

What is going on in the body?

Hypoglycemiais a harmful condition that, if left untreated, can cause comaor even death in severe cases. Most of the time, the levels of glucose in theblood are well controlled by the body. Certain kinds of medicine, however,may cause a level of blood glucose that is lower than a healthy range.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Hypoglycemia due to medicines is most often seen in aperson with diabetes.The person is often taking medicines, such as insulin shots, to keep theblood glucose from getting too high. A person’s blood glucose may gettoo low because:

  • too much medicine was taken
  • nothing was eaten after taking the medicine
  • the person exercised longer or harder than usual
  • Other substances can also cause hypoglycemia in somepeople, including:

  • alcohol
  • certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, called NSAIDs
  • certain antibiotics
  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    Hypoglycemia can cause any of these symptoms:

  • anxiety
  • coma
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • excessive hunger
  • excessive sweating
  • fainting
  • fatigue
  • a feeling that the heart is racing or beating very fast
  • trembling
  • weakness
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    A blood glucose testcan be done to measure the level of glucose in the blood and confirm thediagnosis. Hypoglycemia is caused by many factors, and drug-inducedhypoglycemia is only one type.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    Although these reactions often cannot be prevented, oneshould always take medicines as prescribed by the doctor. A person withdiabetes can watch his or her blood glucose at home.Medicine can be changed by the doctor if a person notices that his orher blood glucose levels have been on the low side. Sometimes, thischange can be made before a severe episode of hypoglycemia occurs.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    It is now thought that repeated or long episodes ofhypoglycemia can cause permanent, mild brain damage. Severehypoglycemia, if left untreated, can lead to a comaor death.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Glucose is given to treat this condition. It may be given:

  • through food and liquids with a high sugar content
  • intravenously, that is, through a needle in the vein
  • A person with diabetesmay need to have his or her medicine changed if hypoglycemiacontinues. Others may need to stop taking certain medicines completelyor take a lower dose. Stopping the medicine often reverses the condition.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    A change in the type or dose of medicine may cause areturn or worsening of the condition that medicine was meant to treat.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    A person with drug-induced hypoglycemia most oftenrecovers quickly once the problem has been named and corrected.

    How is the condition monitored?

    A person with this condition can watch for symptoms and reportthem to the doctor. Someone with diabetesshould ask the doctor about home glucose monitoring.

    Article type: xmedgeneral