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AADE in Practice

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Hypoglycemia is responsible for approximately 100 000 emergency room visits per year in the United States at a cost of about $120 000 000.1 The American Diabetes Association (ADA) defines hypoglycemia as a condition characterized by abnormally low blood glucose levels, usually less than 70 mg/dl.

While all hypoglycemia is of concern, mild to moderate hypoglycemia typically does not constitute an emergency and can be treated by the individual with the ingestion of a quick-acting simple carbohydrate.1 Treatment examples include glucose tablets or gel, regular juice or soda, sugar, honey, or candy such as gummy bears or jellybeans.

Treatment of severe hypoglycemia requires assistance from others and is considered a medical emergency. If unconsciousness or the inability to eat or drink occurs, glucagon may be administrated by injection to raise the glucose levels to normal. Glucagon, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates the liver to produce and release stored glucose into the bloodstream.

Risk factors for severe hypoglycemia include length of time living with diabetes, impaired awareness, and previous episodes of severe hypoglycemia. In addition, individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes that are treated with intensive insulin therapy are at increased risk for severe hypoglycemia.1



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