Glucagon is a hormone that we secrete naturally and that raises blood sugar levels thanks to the release of glucose stored in the liver. In other words: it does the opposite of insulin.
Like insulin, glucagon is also produced in the alpha cells of the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas. These cells are surrounded by others that produce digestive juices, and their main function is to regulate the concentration of glucose in the blood.
In a healthy person, when blood sugar levels rise after food intake, insulin secretion also increases. This makes it easier for the glucose to enter into the cells and be used, which leads to the level of blood glucose concentration to decrease.
However, when the glycemia drops, the alpha cells of the pancreas secrete glucagon. This promotes the release of glucose stored in the liver in the form of glycogen, back to the blood stream. And so the balance is restored.
Our body uses glucagon during prolonged periods of fasting, such as, for example, when we sleep.
Remember that in congenital hyperinsulinism (HI), the “defective” production of insulin also inhibits the use of alternative sources of energy. That also includes glucagon.
Glucagon is also the hormone used in emergency situations caused by hypoglycemia. It comes in an emergency kit that includes a syringe with a clear liquid and a vial of glucagon powder.
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WHEN IT IS USED?
In cases of emergency!
That is to say: when a person has difficulties to swallow or to coordinate, is unconscious or seizuring as a consequence of severe hypoglycemia.
Remember: if the person is unconscious, convulses or has difficulty swallowing as a result of hypoglycemia, never try to give him/her food or liquids. He/she could choke and these could go to the lungs, which would cause an even greater emergency situation.
Glucagon should also be used when the situation does not improve after consuming food or fluids to treat the first symptoms of low blood sugar levels.
If for whatever reason you cannot treat severe hypoglycemia with glucagon, you should call the emergency services immediately. Keep in mind that severe hypoglycamia is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
SHOULD I HAVE ANY GLUCAGON EMERGENCY KIT?
Anyone who is at risk for hypoglycemia should have a glucagon emergency kit to have on hand at all times.
Being alert to the first symptoms of hypoglycemia, or controlling sugar extensively in asymptomatic people, generally we will not get to use it. However, each person is unique, and also our glucose demand varies by numerous factors. Therefore, it is always good to be prepared.
WHO SHOULD LEARN TO DISPENSE IT?
In general, it will depend on the routines of each person or family, but it would be advisable that in all areas there is someone who not only knows where to find the glucagon kit, but also knows how to prepare and inject it (a relative, teacher, friend, partner, etc.). This also applies to people who have autonomous control of their disease because in severe hypoglycemia help from another person is required.
Before talking about the technique of administration, it is important to remember that if you are in the position of having to use glucagon is because there is an emergency caused by severe hypoglycemia.
First of all, we must try to stay calm so that our nerves do not play tricks on us and we can provide the most effective help possible.
Think that, such a situation, with enough certainty, the person in front of you will be unconscious, will not be able to intake anything and may even be convulsing.
When the person who convulses is your child, the situation is very stressful. Not only because you know it is a delicate moment, but also because at that moment all damage that hypoglycemia can cause resonates in your mind.
Inside the kit there is a syringe with a liquid and a vial of glucagon powder. It can only be prepared immediately before using it: it does not admit to having it mixed in advance.
Therefore, you can be more efficient if you know when and how to use it.
La Otra Cara de la Insulina reminds you that we are not doctors. If you have any doubts or questions about the treatment to follow, you should consult qualified medical personnel.