Hypoglycemia is the clinical syndrome that results from low blood sugar. The symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary from person to person, as can the severity. Classically, hypoglycemia is diagnosed by a low blood sugar, with symptoms that resolve when the sugar level returns to the normal range.

Hypoglycemia, also called low blood sugar, occurs when your blood glucose (blood sugar) level drops too low to provide enough energy for your body’s activities. In adults or children older than 10 years, hypoglycemia is uncommon except as a side effect of diabetes treatment, but it can result from other medications or diseases, hormone or enzyme deficiencies, or tumors.

Glucose, a form of sugar, is an important fuel for your body. Carbohydrates are the main dietary sources of glucose. Rice, potatoes, bread, tortillas, cereal, milk, fruit, and sweets are all carbohydrate-rich foods.

After a meal, glucose molecules are absorbed into your bloodstream and carried to the cells, where they are used for energy. Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, helps glucose enter cells. If you take in more glucose than your body needs at the time, your body stores the extra glucose in your liver and muscles in a form called glycogen. Your body can use the stored glucose whenever it is needed for energy between meals. Extra glucose can also be converted to fat and stored in fat cells.

When blood glucose begins to fall, glucagon, another hormone produced by the pancreas, signals the liver to break down glycogen and release glucose, causing blood glucose levels to rise toward a normal level. If you have diabetes, this glucagon response to hypoglycemia may be impaired, making it harder for your glucose levels to return to the normal range.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include hunger, nervousness and shakiness, perspiration, dizziness or light-headedness, sleepiness, confusion, difficulty speaking and feeling anxious or weak. Hypoglycemia can also happen while you are sleeping. You might cry out or have nightmares; find that your pajamas or sheets are damp from perspiration; and feel tired, irritable, or confused when you wake up.