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July 8, 2000

Hypoglycemia

Question from Michigan, USA:

My son is 10 years old. Last year he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He has had three seizures. I want to know if his sugar drops from 300 down to 83 real fast if that can cause a seizure.

Answer:

It shouldn’t, given the values you report. True hypoglycemia is defined as a blood sugar level below 50 mg/dl. The answer is hard to give because brain tissue is difficult to study in children and there is no real understanding as to why some subjects are more susceptible to seizures than others.

I don’t wish to get into detailed neurological/biochemical mechanisms but family history of seizures, a history of seizures for unknown reasons, or a possible birth injury, are commonly invoked as explanations for special sensitivity to hypoglycemia. From animal studies it has been proposed that some individuals can make better use of other intermediary metabolites (such as ketones) than glucose for the energy needs of the brain.

Did you check blood sugar levels during the night when children are more susceptible to hypoglycemia unawareness as a possible cause of seizures?

MS