Levels which are significantly above or below this range are problematic and can in some cases be dangerous. A level of <3.8 mmol/L (<70 mg/dL) is usually described as a hypoglycemic attack (low blood sugar). Most diabetics know when they are going to "go hypo" and usually are able to eat some food or drink something sweet to raise levels. A patient who is hyperglycemic (high glucose) can also become temporarily hypoglycemic, under certain conditions (e.g. not eating regularly, or after strenuous exercise, followed by fatigue). Intensive efforts to achieve blood sugar levels close to normal have been shown to triple the risk of the most severe form of hypoglycemia, in which the patient requires assistance from by-standers in order to treat the episode.[8] In the United States, there were annually 48,500 hospitalizations for diabetic hypoglycemia and 13,100 for diabetic hypoglycemia resulting in coma in the period 1989 to 1991, before intensive blood sugar control was as widely recommended as today.[9] One study found that hospital admissions for diabetic hypoglycemia increased by 50% from 1990–1993 to 1997–2000, as strict blood sugar control efforts became more common.[10] Among intensively controlled type 1 diabetics, 55% of episodes of severe hypoglycemia occur during sleep, and 6% of all deaths in diabetics under the age of 40 are from nocturnal hypoglycemia in the so-called 'dead-in-bed syndrome,' while National Institute of Health statistics show that 2% to 4% of all deaths in diabetics are from hypoglycemia.[11] In children and adolescents following intensive blood sugar control, 21% of hypoglycemic episodes occurred without explanation.[12] In addition to the deaths caused by diabetic hypoglycemia, periods of severe low blood sugar can also cause permanent brain damage.[13] Although diabetic nerve disease is usually associated with hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia as well can initiate or worsen neuropathy in diabetics intensively struggling to reduce their hyperglycemia.[14]
Capsaicin cream, a topical ointment made with cayenne, has been reported by some patients to help lower pain in the hands and feet from diabetic neuropathy. But people with loss of sensation in the hands or feet should use caution when using capsaicin, as they may not be able to fully feel any burning sensation. Check with your doctor if you are thinking of trying this product.

After you are diagnosed with diabetes, by following a healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet along with exercise, you may be able to decrease your blood glucose levels to within normal range. Utilizing SMBG (self monitoring of blood glucose), you can see how different foods, as well as meals, influence your blood glucose levels. Doing SMBG along with a healthy diet and exercise is key to getting your diabetes under good control.
Robert Ferry Jr., MD, is a U.S. board-certified Pediatric Endocrinologist. After taking his baccalaureate degree from Yale College, receiving his doctoral degree and residency training in pediatrics at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), he completed fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
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