Hypoglycemia and anemia are two different conditions that can cause some similar symptoms. These include tiredness, dizziness, and headaches. They also have key differences.
Hypoglycemia is the medical term for low blood sugar, while anemia occurs when there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. A
There is no link between hypoglycemia and anemia. However, someone can have both at the same time. For example, if a person is not getting enough energy or nutrients from food, they may have low blood sugar and anemia simultaneously.
Keep reading to learn more about hypoglycemia, anemia, and their relationship.
Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. It occurs when glucose levels drop too low, depriving cells of the energy they need to function. Doctors define hypoglycemia as blood sugar levels that fall below
Anemia occurs when there are not enough red blood cells in the blood to transport oxygen to cells. There are many types of anemia, but among the
While they are distinct conditions, hypoglycemia and anemia can share some similar symptoms. Sometimes, they may also share the same cause.
What is reactive hypoglycemia?
Reactive hypoglycemia is a rare condition that causes low blood sugar in the hours following a meal.
Researchers do not fully understand the cause of reactive hypoglycemia. However, they are aware that it stems from having too much insulin in the blood at the wrong time.
The symptoms of hypoglycemia vary
Similarly, the symptoms of nutritional deficiency anemias can be
The following table shows symptoms of iron deficiency anemia, B12 or folate deficiency anemia, and hypoglycemia:
|Iron deficiency anemia||B12 or folate deficiency anemia||Mild to moderate hypoglycemia||Severe hypoglycemia|
|tiredness||tiredness||hunger||loss of consciousness|
|dizziness||pins and needles||shaking||seizures|
|difficulty thinking||difficulty thinking or confusion||dizziness or lightheadedness|
|weakness||low mood or depression||headache|
|shortness of breath||red tongue, which may be thick or tender||irritability or confusion|
|cold hands and feet||tiredness|
|chest pain||difficulty speaking or seeing clearly|
|irregular heart beat, if severe||fast or unsteady heart rate|
Anemia does not cause hypoglycemia. However, an
Conversely, there is a direct link between iron deficiency anemia and higher amounts of glucose in the blood.
Below are conditions and circumstances that can cause both hypoglycemia and anemia at the same time, or individually.
Malnutrition occurs when someone does not get enough of the nutrients they need from their food. This can result in low blood sugar, low levels of iron or other nutrients, or both.
Some potential causes of malnutrition include:
- lack of food or forgetting to eat
- eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa
- frequent or prolonged fasting
It can also occur in people who have undergone surgeries that restrict how much they can eat per sitting, such as gastric bypass surgery.
Hypoglycemia is common in people with diabetes. One of the
Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to take in glucose from the blood. However, if a person takes too much, blood sugar levels drop too low, resulting in hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia can also happen as a result of other diabetes medications. These drugs include sulfonylureas, such as glimepiride (Amaryl), which increase insulin over several hours, or meglitinides, such as repaglinide (Prandin), which provide a short-term increase in insulin.
Other causes among people with diabetes include:
- not eating enough carbohydrates
- skipping or delaying meals
- suddenly increasing exercise
- consuming alcohol, particularly on an empty stomach
- gastrointestinal bleeding
- reduced iron absorption
- other diabetes complications, such as kidney disease that can lead to anemia
Blood contains both glucose and red blood cells. If a person loses blood, they may experience some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia or anemia. This is why, before giving blood, health organizations advise people to eat a snack and ensure their diet contains enough iron.
Anemia can also
Malabsorption occurs when the body has difficulty absorbing nutrients from the digestive tract. It can be a complication of many conditions, such as:
- lactose intolerance
- inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease
- small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- certain infections, such as giardiasis and
- pancreatic or liver disease
- certain drugs, such as irritant laxatives
- some genetic conditions
Malabsorption can cause issues absorbing vitamins and minerals, such as iron or B12. However, in some cases, a person also has difficulty absorbing carbohydrates.
If a person is experiencing unexplained bouts of tiredness, dizziness, weakness, or other symptoms, they should speak with a doctor. They will be able to diagnose whether someone has anemia, hypoglycemia, or another condition. They will also investigate the root cause and suggest ways to prevent it from happening.
Hypoglycemia and anemia can indicate a more serious underlying condition, so it is important not to try and self-diagnose. Many things can cause them outside of the conditions mentioned in this article.
If any of the following occur, seek immediate medical help:
- intense drowsiness and difficulty staying awake
- loss of consciousness
Hypoglycemia and anemia are both conditions that involve not having enough of a vital substance in the blood. Hypoglycemia occurs when there is not enough glucose in the blood, whereas anemia is a lack of red blood cells.
Many problems can cause hypoglycemia and anemia. It is possible to have both conditions at the same time, especially if someone has malnutrition. However, while they share some symptoms and potential causes, the two conditions are not directly related – one does not cause the other.
A doctor can determine the cause and prescribe appropriate treatment. For example, if someone with diabetes has hypoglycemia, a practitioner may adjust the dose of their insulin or medication. When an individual has nutritional deficiency anemia, medical advice may include getting more iron, B12, or folate from the diet.