Introduction to Blood Sugar
Blood sugar concentration is the amount of glucose present in the blood. This level normally ranges from 3.6 to 5.8 mmol/L. The level of glucose is regulated by optimal intake of food that contain glucose and with the assistance of certain hormones produced by the body among which the most significant one is insulin. Insulin is synthesized by the pancreas and plays a significant role in transport of glucose into all body cells. Glucose is considered a primary source of energy necessary for proper function of body cells.
In case blood sugar levels are outside the optimal range this can be an indicator of certain medical conditions. For example, persistently elevated blood sugar level (hyperglycemia) is a characteristic of diabetes mellitus while low levels of blood sugar are medically known as hypoglycemia and they occur due to several causes.
High Blood Sugar
Blood sugar can be only temporarily increased and in such case it cannot do any harm. However, in case of persistent elevation of blood sugar there are serious complications that can occur and many organs and organ systems can be significantly damaged. People with increased blood sugar actually suffer from diabetes mellitus. The symptoms of elevated blood sugar in such patients feature with increased thirst and urination, increased appetite associated with rapid weight loss, headache, problems with vision (blurred vision), dry skin, etc. Unregulated increased level of blood sugar, particularly if it lasts for a longer period of time, leads to irreversible damage to blood vessels and is associated with illnesses such as atherosclerosis, kidney failure, stroke, heart attack etc.
Low Blood Sugar
If the level of blood sugar drops below 3.6 mmol/L the person is suffering from hypoglycemia. The effects of low blood sugar are also detrimental for the body as it is the case with high blood sugar. In mild cases people experience drowsiness, are irritable or may suffer from impaired cognitive functioning. In severe cases of hypoglycemia patients may end up in a coma and if this state is further neglected lethal outcome is inevitable.
Control of Blood Sugar Levels
In healthy people the pancreas efficiently monitors blood sugar levels. The organ synthesizes and releases insulin according to the level of glucose in the blood. In case of excess of glucose the insulin is released in higher amounts and allows glucose to be transferred into specific cells where it is stored for future use. Excess of glucose is stored in the liver in a form called glycogen. On the other hand, if there is an insufficient level of glucose in the blood the pancreas releases glucagon, a hormone that allows glucose to be released from glycogen.