Chills from Low Blood Sugar?
July 16, 2004 10:49 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is diabetic and was wondering why she feels cold (sometimes REALLY cold) when her blood sugar goes way low. My Google-fu has mostly just turned up general info on hypoglycemia and diabetes, with "chills" or "cold sweats" simply listed as possible symptoms with no explanation. My guess is it's somehow related to the idea that sugar=energy=heat, but how exactly does the process work?
posted by rorycberger to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
My wife is diabetic, and from what I understand it this has to do with decreased bloodflow to the capillaries, mostly extremeties, especially during low-sugar periods.

I think this also may be part of the reason why small cuts to hands and feet might not heal for many diabetics, and frequently can get infected and be responsible for eventual amputation.
posted by luriete at 10:58 AM on July 16, 2004

Response by poster: That sounds plausible, but why does low blood sugar lead to decreased bloodflow?

Anybody know of a site that gives scientific explanations for diabetic symptoms (and/or common health topics)? I'm looking for something like: (body processes sugar -> blood sugar decreases -> bloodflow decreases -> body feels cold) with a detailed how/why at every step.
posted by rorycberger at 12:28 PM on July 16, 2004

If you find something please drop me a line and let me know. I'm wondering about this too.
posted by luriete at 1:38 PM on July 16, 2004

I get really hot when I get low. REALLY hot. I sweat and sweat so much that my hair gets wet and my entire body is slick with sweat and then I get freezing cold after I take care of it because I am soking wet with sweat. Never felt cold from low blood sugar.

No idea why. Also, this is not always the symptom of low blood sugar. Other times I see spots, or shake, or feel stupid (like I can't form a sentence or think straight-sometimes I can't even talk), or feel really tired. Or a mixture of some/all of them. Or sometimes, NOTHING and I happen to take my sugar level and it's in the 30's!

Diabetes is a frustrating disease. I'd love to know why low blood sugar has any of these effects.
posted by aacheson at 2:32 PM on July 16, 2004

Best answer: I'm diabetic and understand it as follows:

The decreased bloodflow part has to do with the effects of long term living with elevated blood glucose of diabetes. It means that capillaries don't get the blood supply they need and become unusable. My understanding is particular episodes of low [or high] blood sugar themselves don't immediately impact bloodflow, etc.

Low blood glucose itself does not cause bad circulation to itself, but I would guess not having enough energy in the blood [especially in extremities] would make one feel cold since these areas are not burning fuel. In others it might make them get shakes (me) or no impact at all.

The American Diabetes Association has a lot of useful articles and resources on learning more about diabetes. They also have a few great books with more information on the disease. There's also books about living with people with diabetes [forgot the title of the one I bought, but there's a ton of similar titles at Borders or Amazon].

hypoglycemia shows the various symptoms of low blood sugar.
posted by birdherder at 2:34 PM on July 16, 2004

I have an odd suggestion that might answer your question for you in an oblique way.

Buy a juice-extractor (or "juice machine" or whatever).

Juice 3 carrots & 2 entire apples. Take resulting juice and add an equal amount of OJ.

Drink the whole thing.

If you are not accustomed to fresh juices, you may very likely feel a sugar explosion consisting of a heatwave emanating from your gut, where the sugars are broken down. Bloodflow carries that heat around your body, keeping you alive. Experiencing a real rocket might help you get a sense of what a crash feels like.
posted by scarabic at 7:55 PM on July 16, 2004

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