Glucagon and Diabetes
Individuals with diabetes have a lot to look out for when it comes to managing their blood sugar levels. We commonly hear about people who need insulin to lower glucose levels in their blood, which is a part of what diabetes is all about.
However, there’s one other matter that diabetics have to look out for: their glucagon levels.
Glucagon is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and one of the major factors in managing diabetes. While insulin lowers the blood’s glucose level, glucagon does the opposite; it increases glucose. These two work together in maintaining blood sugar levels, like opposite sides of the same coin.
Normal blood sugar levels range from 70 to 100 mg per deciliter (mg/dl) or 3.9 to 5.6 millimoles per liter (mmol/l). The pancreas releases glucagon when glucose levels in the bloodstream become too low. Glucagon then causes the liver to convert its stored glycogen into glucose, which is then released into the blood. It helps metabolize fat cells, and increases the release of energy from glucose. Its levels also go up during times of stress.
Glucagon can also be used in cases outside diabetes. Some have treated an overdose of beta blockers with high doses of glucagon. It can also be injected intravenously to treat low blood pressure.
In normal persons, glucagon levels fall when sugar from food enters the bloodstream. But in diabetics, the opposite happens. While eating, their glucagon levels rise, which causes blood sugar levels to rise as well.
People with Type 1 diabetes can no longer secrete insulin to help them cope with changes in their blood sugar levels. There are some, however, who also lose the ability to release glucagon even while they have low blood sugar, making them especially prone to severe hypoglycemia. Glucagon also boosts blood sugar levels higher, in the case of Type 2 patients, when their bodies don’t respond quickly to insulin.
Hypoglycemia is a common condition among those undergoing treatment for diabetes. Medications that increase insulin may, in turn, can cause blood sugar to drop sharply.
When a person suffers hypoglycemia and could not ingest glucose, he is given as first aid an injectable dose of glucagon. The dose for an adult is typically 1 milligram, and is administered by intramuscular, intravenous or subcutaneous injection.
Studying the function of glucagon is helping experts in researching new medicine that can control diabetics’ blood sugar levels. Outside medicine, those with diabetes can become more aware of their food intake and manage their blood sugar on their own.
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