You can experience seizures or even a life threatening coma if your blood sugar drops too low, especially if you have diabetes. These diabetic seizures can be dangerous and may require emergency medical help.

If your blood sugar gets very low, you can experience a range of mild to severe hypoglycemic symptoms that may include crankiness, dizziness, and confusion.

The severity of hypoglycemic symptoms you experience can vary, increasing the risk of seizures and related medical emergencies that most likely can’t be treated without help.

This article will explain more about the most common hypoglycemia symptoms, why seizures may be possible for people with and without diabetes, and what you may want to discuss with your healthcare team in order to manage and treat hypoglycemia.

Yes, you may experience seizures when you have very low blood sugar.

The American Diabetes Association defines hypoglycemia as a blood glucose reading of 70 mg/dL or below and severe hypoglycemia as a reading of 54 mg/dL or below. This extremely low level can cause severe cognitive impairment, with possible loss of consciousness, seizure, convulsions, coma, or death.

But everyone’s diabetes and what they experience with hypoglycemia can vary, meaning that not everyone will have the same low symptoms at the same glucose threshold or to the same severity.

In general, other hypoglycemia symptoms include:

  • hunger
  • crankiness (feeling “hangry”)
  • sweating
  • racing or pounding heart
  • feeling weak or tired
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • nervousness
  • sleep problems
  • lip, tongue, or cheek numbness
  • clumsiness

Many of these symptoms come on quickly, but everyone experiences them differently.

So, you may get several symptoms or just one or two.

Some people do not feel their low blood sugars, and this is known as hypoglycemia unawareness. Without this awareness, you may not realize there’s a problem until your blood sugar drops even lower, causing severe symptoms like seizures.

What is a diabetic seizure?

Hypoglycemia is a common part of life with diabetes and can cause seizures.

Seizures and convulsions have overlapping definitions, but in general, they’re both episodes of shaking or uncontrollable body movements. Seizures may cause convulsions, but not always. Symptoms of seizures may vary but can include:

  • loss of consciousness
  • spasms
  • loss of bladder or bowel control
  • falling
  • clenching your teeth
  • loss of body control
  • staring into space
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Blood sugars in the hypoglycemic range can be harmful to your health. That’s because your organs, especially your brain, aren’t getting enough of the fuel they need to function.

A few conditions can lead to very low blood sugar, diabetes being the most common cause.

People with diabetes don’t make or use the hormone insulin in their bodies correctly, as those without diabetes do naturally. That means that people with diabetes must carefully monitor their blood sugar levels, and they may take insulin by injection or insulin pump.

But ensuring that insulin levels remain balanced along with food amounts, exercise, and stress levels can be a challenge. If you have too much insulin in your body and don’t eat enough or exercise too much, it can lead to lower blood sugars.

Your body may also use glucose too quickly for other reasons. Here are some factors other than diabetes that can cause low blood sugar:

  • some hormone imbalances
  • drinking alcohol
  • sepsis, a whole-body infection
  • liver, kidney, or heart failure
  • a pancreatic tumor called insulinoma
  • some medicines that are not for diabetes, including certain antibiotics or heart drugs
  • some kinds of weight loss surgery, usually years after the surgery
  • using too much insulin at once
  • fasting or not eating for more than 8 hours
  • maternal diabetes

Severe hypos and their more dramatic symptoms (such as seizures and comas) are less common than decades earlier, in large part due to improvements in blood sugar and diabetes management since the early 2000s.

Few clinical studies focus on neurological complications of hypoglycemia, including how often seizures occur in people with or without diabetes.

But research from 2015 showed that the risk of seizures was not as high as many clinicians had previously thought. While the researchers emphasized the limitations of the study, they wrote, “The risk of seizures at different blood glucose levels… seems to be low.”

While this was the first systematic study examining this issue in people without epilepsy, the research had limitations and the study authors noted larger, future studies were needed.

Regardless of whether hypoglycemia causes seizures or not, low blood sugar can be dangerous.

Knowing the dangers of hypoglycemia is a key part of diabetes management that you can work with your healthcare team on.

Hyperglycemia, also called high blood sugar, can also cause seizures.

Hyperglycemia can occur in diabetes when your body is not properly managing blood sugar because you don’t have enough insulin for your cells to store.

The extra glucose in the blood leads to an imbalance of fluid and minerals, and that can build up to dangerous levels. Additionally, fat breaks down in response to pH imbalances in the blood.

If you’re experiencing hypoglycemia but not severe symptoms, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends the Rule of 15: eating 15 grams of carbohydrates and checking your blood sugar level after 15 minutes. You repeat this until your blood sugar rises to 70 mg/dL or above.

You should get medical help right away for someone who is having a hypoglycemic seizure. Untreated severe hypoglycemia can lead to loss of consciousness, coma, brain damage, or death.

If you or your loved one has diabetes, your doctors may have given you certain rescue medications like fast-acting glucagon and discussed how to use it with you. You can consult with your healthcare team about whether you should keep glucagon on hand and how to use it.

You may need to get emergency help right away if someone with diabetes experiences these low blood sugar symptoms:

  • lack of alertness
  • inability to wake up
  • diabetic seizure
  • violent outbursts

Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. When your blood sugar gets very low, this severe hypoglycemia can cause serious symptoms like seizures or comas. If you experience diabetic seizures or a loved one with diabetes experiences severe hypoglycemia and cannot treat themself without help, you may need to consider emergency medical help.