Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Drug-induced hypoglycemia

Drug-induced hypoglycemia is low blood sugar that results from medication.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

All of the following can cause blood sugar (glucose) levels to drop:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Getting too much activity
  • Intentionally or unintentionally overdosing on the medications used to treat diabetes
  • Missing meals

Even when diabetes is managed very carefully, the medications used to treat diabetes can result in drug-induced hypoglycemia. The condition may also occur when someone without diabetes takes a medicine used to treat diabetes. In rare cases, non-diabetes-related medicines may cause hypoglycemia.

Medications that can cause drug-induced hypoglycemia include:

  • Bactrim (an antibiotic)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Haloperidol
  • Insulin
  • MAO inhibitors
  • Metformin when used with sulfonylureas
  • Pentamidine
  • Quinidine
  • Quinine
  • Sulfonylureas

Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Numbness or tingling of skin
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating

Symptoms of long-term (chronic) hypoglycemia can include:

  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Extreme tiredness (lethargy )
  • Movement difficulties (ataxia)

Signs and tests

A blood test will show a glucose level of less than 70 mg/dL.

In cases where people without diabetes have taken drugs for the condition, blood tests may show a high insulin level and low C-peptide level. The urine may test positive for sulfonylureas.

Treatment

You will be given glucose. The doctor will review your diabetes treatment plan to help prevent future problems.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook is good if the hypoglycemia is promptly detected and treated. However, long-term and repeated episodes of hypoglycemia may damage the brain and nerves.

Complications

Complications of severe or long-term hypoglycemia include:

  • Brain and nervous system (neurologic) damage
  • Coma
  • Convulsions

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of hypoglycemia. Be sure to mention any medications you believe may be affecting the condition.

Prevention

For people with diabetes, strict control of blood sugar is important. This can be done with:

  • Home blood sugar testing
  • Exercise
  • Proper diet

Discuss any planned changes in diet, exercise, travel, weight, or routine with your health care provider. Your treatment plan may be adjusted ahead of time to prevent hypoglycemia.

References

Guettier JM. Hypoglycemia. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. Dec 2006; 35(4): 753-66, viii-ix.

Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 22nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2004:1444-1445.

Cryer, PE. Glucose Homeostasis and Hypoglycemia. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008:chap 33.

Updated: 5/10/2010

Ari S. Eckman, MD, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com