Hypoglycemia occurs in diabetic patients as a consequence of treatment with hypoglycemic agents, in insulinoma patients as a result of excessive insulin production, and in infants as a result of abnormal regulation of metabolism. Profound hypoglycemia can cause structural and functional disturbances in both the central (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The brain is damaged by a short and severe episode of hypoglycemia, whereas PNS pathology appears after a mild and prolonged episode. In the CNS, damaged mitochondria, elevated intracellular Ca2(+) level, released cytochrome c to the cytosol, extensive production of superoxide, increased caspase-3 activity, release of aspartate and glutamate from presynaptic terminals, and altered biosynthetic machinery can lead to neuronal cell death in the brain. Considering the PNS, chronic hypoglycemia is associated with delayed motor and sensory conduction velocities in peripheral nerves. With respect to pathology, hypoglycemic neuropathy in the PNS is characterized by Wallerian-like axonal degeneration that starts at the nerve terminal and progresses to a more proximal part of the axon, and motor axons to the muscles may be more severely damaged than sensory axons. Since excitatory neurotransmitters primarily involve the neuron in the CNS, this "dying back" pattern of axonal damage in the PNS may involve mechanisms other than excitotoxicity.
2014. Vol. 126, 513-32 p.