Diabetes Home > Glucagon Uses

How Does Glucagon Work?

Glucagon is a naturally occurring human hormone. It has several different actions, most notably causing an increase in blood glucose. It does this by working in the liver to convert glycogen (the stored form of glucose) into glucose (sugar).
Glucagon also causes relaxation of the smooth muscles of the digestive (gastrointestinal) tract. Because of this effect, the medication is sometimes used during certain diagnostic tests to slow down the digestive tract.
Glucagon relies on the liver's stores of glycogen; therefore, it does not work in situations where the liver is depleted of glycogen. These situations might include:
  • Starvation or fasting
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Chronic (long-term) hypoglycemia
  • Alcohol-induced hypoglycemia.

Can Children Use Glucagon?

This medication is safe and effective for use in children. Children typically receive half the normal adult dose (see Glucagon Dosage).

Off-Label Uses for Glucagon

On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend this product for something other than the uses discussed in this article (these are known as "off-label" uses). For example, using glucagon to treat overdoses of beta blocker or calcium channel blocker medications is considered an off-label use.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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