Hypoglycemia vs. Diabetes

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over two seemingly contradictory scenarios: hypoglycemia and diabetes. First, you'll learn what they are and then you'll learn how they might be related.


When you think of diabetes, what do you typically think of? Things like insulin or high blood sugar, right? And you'd be correct in thinking that as they are both important components of diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone that helps lower blood sugar and it is either found in low quantities in a person with diabetes or the person's body doesn't respond to its blood sugar-lowering effects very well. You can think of insulin as a hormone that opens a door to let glucose out of the blood and into your body's cells.

However, and a bit confusingly for now, low blood sugar might also be a component of diabetes in some instances. Let's first differentiate the two terms first and then see how they are connected.

Hypoglycemia Vs. Diabetes

Hypoglycemia, in short, refers to low blood sugar. This is easy to remember if you know the word parts involved here:

  • 'Hypo-' means abnormally low
  • '-glyc-' refers to sugar
  • '-emia' refers to a condition of the blood

Thus, hypoglycemia is a condition of the blood characterized by abnormally low blood sugar.

Diabetes mellitus, as you learned before, is a medical condition that is actually characterized by high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, where 'hyper-' means abnormally excessive. Diabetes occurs because the person's body isn't producing enough insulin or isn't responding to it very well. This means sugar doesn't leave the blood and enter your body's cells nearly as quickly as it should. This leads to high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia.

Hypoglycemia & Diabetes

So how in the world is hypoglycemia related to diabetes if diabetes, by definition, is characterized by hyperglycemia?

Well, diabetes is a condition that is treated with numerous medications, most famously with insulin, the same hormone that the body is lacking or isn't responding to! If a person takes too much insulin, their blood sugar levels can drop dramatically, and this will result in something called diabetic hypoglycemia.

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