Hypoglycemia and low blood sugar in Children

  • Glucose is a form of sugar that comes from carbohydrates found in foods, and is a main source of fuel for all of the cells of the body and, especially, the brain. While the body is quite good at extracting glucose from the foods we eat, it relies on a hormone called insulin to actually get the glucose inside the cells of specific organs: the liver, fat, and muscle.

    We can think of insulin as holding the “key” to a cell– without insulin, the glucose just remains in the blood, where it’s also known as “blood sugar.” During an episode of hypoglycemia, the blood sugar level is too low (there’s not enough glucose in the blood) to effectively fuel the body’s cells.

    • It can be helpful to think of hypoglycemia as something that happens in episodes, rather than as a permanent condition.

    • Hypoglycemia is most common in newborns. 

    • In older children, it’s most often seen as a complication of insulin therapy for diabetes, but can sometimes have other causes as well.

    • In the majority of cases, hypoglycemia is temporary, easily treated, and usually does not have serious consequences.

    • There are several rare disorders in which hypoglycemia is recurrent and potentially life-threatening. However, with timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, these can be effectively managed.

    How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches hypoglycemia

    At Children’s, we treat hypoglycemia in our General Endocrinology Program a multi-disciplinary program dedicated to the treatment of a wide range of endocrinological disorders.

    Caring for more than 7,000 patients each year, our division is one of the largest pediatric endocrinology practices in the country. We provide state-of-the-art diagnosis, treatment and clinical management for children with hypoglycemia and related disorders.

    For more than three decades, the investigation and treatment of hypoglycemia disorders in infancy and childhood has been a major clinical and research interest of the Division of Endocrinology.

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