Difference between Diabetes and Hypoglycemia

Diabetes and hypoglycemia are two medical conditions that affect the way the body manages blood sugar levels. Both conditions are related to blood sugar, but they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. In this essay, we will discuss the difference between diabetes and hypoglycemia in detail.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that affects the way the body uses glucose, the primary source of energy for the body's cells. Glucose is obtained from the food we eat and is transported through the bloodstream to the body's cells, where it is used for energy. In diabetes, the body's ability to use glucose is impaired, leading to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body to use glucose. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin and must take insulin injections or use an insulin pump to manage their blood sugar levels.

  • Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body becomes resistant to insulin or does not produce enough insulin to meet the body's needs. This type of diabetes is often linked to obesity, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Diagnosis for Diabetes

Diabetes can be diagnosed using either a random blood sugar test, fasting sugar test or glucose tolerance testing. The random test ignores when you last ate. If you have 200mg/dL blood sugar of higher on this test, then diabetes is diagnosed. A fasting test is when blood sugar is measured after a night after fasting. A level above 100 mg/dL suggests diabetes.

Glucose tolerance testing is a test where you drink a sugary solution and glucose levels are tested over the next two hours. If your sugar is greater than 200mg/dL at two hours then this indicates diabetes.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Classic symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, polydipsia; increased hunger, polyphagia (increased hunger), and problems with vision. Additional symptoms include feeling exhausted, losing weight, feeling nauseated, and having a fruity breath odor. Skin can become dry and people can feel short of breath. People with poorly controlled diabetes can have symptoms of high blood sugar and low blood sugar (if on insulin).

Treatment and Management of Diabetes

Insulin medications and injections may be needed, especially in the case of type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be controlled by following a healthy diet, losing weight and exercising. A pregnant woman may be able to control their diabetic condition by diet and exercise. However, sometimes, type 2 diabetics and those with gestational diabetes may still require medications of injections. It is important that diabetics carefully monitor blood sugar levels and manage their diet carefully to avoid problems.

Diabetes Complications

Diabetes is a dangerous condition since it leads to many complications, including death. High blood sugar damages nerves causing organ damage, including problems with the eyes, kidneys, and heart, and it can lead to loss of limbs.

Often a person with uncontrolled diabetes does not feel if they have a sore on a foot or other extremity until it is too late. Often ulcers develop that become further infected leading to gangrene and requiring amputation.

In addition, some diabetics can develop ketoacidosis which can lead to coma. This happens because they are not metabolizing sugar but instead, are breaking down fats. This leads to ketones being produced that can make them dehydrated and confused. Taking too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia and coma as well.

What is Hypoglycemia?

Hypoglycemia, on the other hand, is a condition characterized by low levels of glucose in the bloodstream. This can occur when the body produces too much insulin or when a person with diabetes takes too much insulin or skips a meal. Hypoglycemia can also occur in people who do not have diabetes, such as those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery or those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

Diagnosis of Hypoglycemia

Doctors note a low blood plasma level of glucose of usually less than 60 or 50 mg/dL. Patients also respond when given dextrose. The condition can also be diagnosed after taking measurements after a patient has undergone a 48 hr and 72 hr fast in a controlled environment.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Symptoms of low blood sugar include trembling, sweating, nausea, palpitations, and anxiety. People may also feel faint and have blurry vision and headaches. In severe cases, a person may be unable to speak properly, be mentally confused and fall into a coma.

Treatment and Management of Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is treated by giving the purpose glucose orally or by giving intravenous dextrose. If possible, the underlying condition causing the low blood sugar should be diagnosed and treated. Patients can learn to eat more often and eat foods that digest more slowly to try to prevent sudden drops in blood glucose.

Complications Involved in Hypoglycemia

The main complication of hypoglycemia is seizures, brain damage, coma and eventually death. The brain cannot function without glucose.

Differences: Hyperglycemia and Diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes and hypoglycemia can be similar, but they differ in their severity and duration. In diabetes, the symptoms may be mild or nonexistent, particularly in the early stages of the condition. Over time, high levels of glucose in the bloodstream can cause damage to the nerves, blood vessels, and organs, leading to a range of complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, and blindness.

The symptoms of hypoglycemia, on the other hand, can be severe and can occur suddenly. Symptoms can include shaking, sweating, confusion, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat. In severe cases, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and even death if left untreated.

The treatment for diabetes and hypoglycemia also differs. In diabetes, the primary goal of treatment is to manage blood sugar levels and prevent complications. This may involve a combination of lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, and medication, such as insulin injections or oral medications that help the body to use insulin more effectively.

In hypoglycemia, the treatment involves raising blood sugar levels quickly to prevent further symptoms. This may involve consuming a source of fast-acting carbohydrates, such as fruit juice, candy, or glucose gel. In severe cases, a person may need to receive glucose intravenously.

The following table highlights the major differences between Diabetes and Hypoglycemia:





Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar is too high because either cells have stopped responding to insulin or not enough insulin is being secreted.

Hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood glucose level is too low, usually less than 50mg/dL.


Diabetes can be caused by an autoimmune reaction, an unhealthy lifestyle or as a complication of pregnancy.

Hypoglycemia can be caused by taking too much insulin, a tumor, a reaction to a drug or complication of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery.


The diagnosis of diabetes is based on a random blood test, fasting blood test or glucose tolerance test.

Hypoglycemia is based on symptoms and results from a 48 hr to 72 hr fast.


Diabetics have symptoms such as extreme thirst, hunger, urinating often, being fatigued, problems with vision, nausea, dry skin, and a fruity breath odor.

Hypoglycemics have symptoms like trembling, palpitations, blurred vision, sweating and mental confusion.


Diabetes is treated with medicine, insulin injections, a change in diet, exercise and weight loss.

Hypoglycemia is treated by giving oral glucose, IV dextrose and by eating small meals often and eating food that is slow to digest such as proteins.


Complications from diabetes include limb amputation, blindness, kidney and heart failure, ketoacidosis, coma, and death.

Complications from hypoglycemia include seizures, brain damage, coma, and death.


In conclusion, while diabetes and hypoglycemia are related to blood sugar levels, they are different conditions with different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body's ability to use glucose, while hypoglycemia is a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

If you experience symptoms of either condition, it is important to seek medical attention promptly to prevent complications and ensure proper management.

Updated on: 15-May-2023


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