What it Feels Like to Have Low Blood Sugar

Diabetes evokes curiosity for those who are not familiar with it. I’ve been asked many questions over the years – can you eat sweets, does it hurt when you give yourself shots, do you have to protect your pump from water, just to name a few – all relatively easy-to-answer, yes-or-no questions. But every now and then, someone will ask harder questions. And one that I’ve struggled to answer in a succinct manner is: What does it feel like to have low blood sugar?

There isn’t really a simple answer. I guess my textbook response is to rattle off a list of common hypoglycemic symptoms: shakiness, dizziness, sweating, slurred speech, weakness. But I know that other PWD experience slightly different symptoms, such as feeling cold instead of sweaty, or drastic changes in personality. And there are even some PWD who don’t experience any symptoms due to hypoglycemia unawareness.

So how exactly do I response to a question like that, one that’s more loaded than it appears?

A graphical representation of a sudden low – I guarantee I was not feeling great when this one hit.

I could tell the asker to imagine feeling simultaneously ravenous and disoriented. I could tell them to picture walking into the kitchen and feeling like inhaling the entire contents of the pantry – that’s how intensely your body craves sugar.

I could tell them to think about what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. It might seem like a reaction to a nightmare, but it’s the body trying to convey a message that is, by some miracle, supposed to be grasped by someone who was just trying to get a solid night’s sleep.

I could tell them to envision feeling like energy is sapped out of every pore in the body abruptly, with little warning.

I could tell them that sometimes, it results in pure panic, particularly when no fast-acting carbohydrates are on hand or when no one is around to help you.

I could tell them that low blood sugar is one of the biggest sources of anxiety for many PWD, that it causes a deeply rooted fear. That it can sometimes lead to a PWD making unhealthy choices just to avoid a low from happening in the first place.

I could say all of this to anyone who asked me this question – and I still don’t think it would completely convey what it’s like to have low blood sugar.

How would you describe it to someone asking you about it? Would you use the terse medical explanation, or would you try to talk about how it really feels?

Leave your responses in the comments – I’d like to know how you handle this. And if you thought this was an interesting post, let me know. I’m thinking of doing a series about how I answer the more complicated diabetes-related questions I’m asked.


7 thoughts on “What it Feels Like to Have Low Blood Sugar

  1. Its nice to see another PWD describe their experiences with hypos. I did a blog some time ago (1 year?) on how lows made me feel. I have to say my experiences are a little different, not much but some. During a low I don’t crave sugar like you do. It is actually very hard to get me to eat or drink anything when it gets low. The tiredness I get in spades. That is usually one of my tip offs that it is getting low. Anymore when I get tired now I check my Dexcom to see where mysugar level is at.The other really noticeable indicator for low is my concentration and begin able to do even simple math in my head. Now I can still do the math in my head but it takes me much longer as I can’t concentrate on it and I find my mind wondering way too much. Normally I can do double digit math in my head with little problem. When low I have issue with single digit multiplication in there (my head). The fear you talked about is also there. I fear it because of my history of being highly aggressive/combative while low. When I was 12 I threw a nurse 5 feet (1.5m) across our living room. Later, after I grew up and much stronger, I woke up with 8 EMTs holding me down on my bed trying to get an IV started. They told me I was fine until they stuck the IV needle in. These incidents have left me with a near paralyzing fear / panic attacks when I feel it getting low. LOL I just had the thought of asking the curious if I could shoot them up with extra insulin so they could actually experience this awesome gift from diabetes. No I would not wish that on anyone. Thanks for the look into someone else hypo experiences. It has been an interesting journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a hypo in a supermarket a few days ago. The stupid thing is that I suspected I might get one when I injected, but didn’t do anything about it because I thought I’d just take something with me to compensate if I needed it.

    I forgot.

    So I walked into the supermarket feeling a bit low, but not too bad so pressed on. I got what I needed and paid, but stopped to test before I walked home. 3.1 was the result and though I don’t use hypos as an excuse to eat lots, I did panic and ended up having 150g of carbs to correct. I was very nice too, a Snickers and a big bag of Randoms.

    As for how it feels, it’s very much like being deflated; no strength, shaky, can’t walk in a straight line, everything is an effort, that sort of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

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