Hypoglycemia can be a complication of bariatric surgery, due to metabolic changes that cause excess insulin production. It is often challenging to recognize as symptoms of hypoglycemia are similar to other disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder or adrenal insufficiency.
Those who develop hypoglycemia after bariatric surgery, eating can triggers release of hormones which then causes a rapid drop in glucose. The problem is not typically the pancreas, but with the signals which instruct the pancreas to release insulin. Pancreas surgery is not recommended for post-bariatric hypoglycemia as it is not “cured” by removal of the pancreas.
Hypoglycemia can also be observed after other types of upper gastrointestinal surgery, such as ulcer surgery, removal of part of the esophagus, or reflux surgery such as fundoplication.
We do not understand why some individuals have hypoglycemia as a complication of surgery, whereas others do not. If you have a history of hypoglycemia and are considering bariatric surgery, please let your surgeon know, as this may influence decision making about surgery. Hypoglycemia after bariatric surgery typically occurs 1-3 hours after meals and sometimes with activity; it does not usually begin until more than 1 year after surgery.
Hypoglycemia is not your fault.
Low blood sugar
Reduced ability to detect hypoglycemia until brain function is impaired
Symptoms related to inadequate glucose for the brain, such as confusion, blurred vision, difficulty speaking, loss of consciousness, falls, seizures
A group of symptoms which occur after eating in individuals who have had upper gastrointestinal surgery (including bariatric surgery). Symptoms which can occur early after eating include racing heart, lightheadedness, abdominal cramps, and severe sleepiness or need to lie down. Hypoglycemia can sometimes occur as part of this syndrome.
Severe hypoglycemia can be dangerous and must be treated promptly. It is important for patients, caregivers, providers, and the pubic to all be in the KNOW.
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