Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar drops below expected ranges. When hypoglycemia develops, several symptoms can appear. However, other conditions can also cause similar symptoms.

Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when levels of blood sugar, which is also known as blood glucose, fall below a suitable range. Glucose is a simple form of carbohydrate. Along with protein and fat, the body uses glucose for energy.

If blood glucose levels drop too low, the body does not have the fuel source it needs to function optimally. Hypoglycemia can cause a variety of symptoms depending on how low blood sugar drops. However, the symptoms of hypoglycemia can also occur with several other conditions.

The article below looks at the signs of hypoglycemia and what other conditions can have similar symptoms.

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Hypoglycemia describes when blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels fall below typical levels. Doctors define hypoglycemia as a blood glucose level of less than 70 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL).

The body, including the brain, needs a steady amount of glucose to function correctly. When levels drop too low, various symptoms may develop.

Not everyone responds the exact same way to low blood sugar. Symptoms may also range from mild to severe, depending on how low these levels drop. Possible symptoms include:

More severe symptoms can also develop when the brain does not get enough glucose. Symptoms may include:

Hypoglycemia is common in people with type 1 diabetes. However, those without diabetes can also develop non-diabetic hypoglycemia. This can occur due to weight loss surgery, certain drugs, and liver failure.

In some cases, other conditions may cause symptoms that mimic hypoglycemia. Although symptoms may appear similar, blood sugar levels are within a typical range.

Conditions that may cause symptoms similar to hypoglycemia include the below.

Anxiety is a feeling of dread, uneasiness, or fear. It can sometimes produce some hypoglycemia symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety can sometimes include symptoms, such as restlessness, headaches, and a fast heartbeat, which appears similar to low blood sugar.

Migraine attacks are a type of headache that involves recurrent moderate to severe pain, often in one side of the head. In addition to pain, they can cause other symptoms, such as lightheadedness and nausea.

Although migraine episodes do not cause hypoglycemia, a connection may exist. A 2022 review involving a database search found that hypoglycemia may trigger or worsen migraine.

Doctors define menopause as 12 months after a female’s last menstrual period. Menopause involves a decline in certain hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. The change in hormone levels can cause a range of symptoms. Some symptoms, such as dizziness, headache, and fatigue, appear similar to hypoglycemia.

Hyperthyroidism means the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormones. Anyone can develop hyperthyroidism, but it is more common in females and people older than 60.

An overactive thyroid can cause several symptoms, some of which may mimic hypoglycemia. Symptoms may include nervousness, shakiness, fatigue, and sweating.

Hypotension refers to low blood pressure. A typical blood pressure level for most adults is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Doctors refer to a blood pressure measurement of less than 90/60 mm Hg as hypotension. Several factors can lead to hypotension, such as blood loss, heart problems, and pregnancy.

Many symptoms of hypotension may appear similar to hypoglycemia and may include:

  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • feeling tired or weak
  • headache
  • nausea
  • fainting

Other conditions may also mimic symptoms of hypoglycemia. For example, dehydration can also cause some symptoms that occur with hypoglycemia. While dehydration may affect blood sugar levels, it usually increases them. However, the symptoms may mimic hypoglycemia, such as confusion, dizziness, and headache.

Heat exhaustion may also cause symptoms that occur with hypoglycemia. It can happen when the body loses excessive salt and water, most often through excessive sweating. Symptoms may include weakness, headache, and nausea.

Salt deficiency, also called hyponatremia, occurs when the amount of salt in the blood is lower than expected. Having sufficient sodium helps balance the water level in the body. When a salt deficiency develops, it can lead to symptoms such as nausea, confusion, and headache, which are similar to hypoglycemia.

Hypoglycemia is when levels of blood glucose, or blood sugar, go below expected ranges. The body needs adequate levels of glucose to function properly. Doctors classify blood sugar of less than 70 milligrams per deciliter as hypoglycemia.

Various symptoms can develop with hypoglycemia, some of which can become severe. Symptoms may include lightheadedness, headaches, and hunger.

Several other conditions can mimic the symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as hypotension, anxiety, and hyperthyroidism. The most accurate way to determine if symptoms are due to hypoglycemia or one of the above conditions is to measure blood glucose levels.