Glucagon is a medication used to treat severe low blood sugar. In some cases, it is also used to slow the digestive tract for certain diagnostic tests. The medication is almost always injected just under the skin, and it can take between 5 and 45 minutes for the maximum results to be felt. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, and blood pressure changes.
What Is Glucagon?
Glucagon is a hormone that the body uses to help control blood sugar levels. Because it can increase blood sugar, glucagon is used as a treatment for severe low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It is also used in certain diagnostic tests.
Glucagon kits, which contain everything needed to prepare and give the injections, are made by Eli Lilly and Company (sold under the name "Glucagon Emergency Kit") and by Novo Nordisk, Inc. (sold under the name "GlucaGen® HypoKit®"). In addition, Bedford Laboratories makes a version of GlucaGen that comes with just the glucagon powder and the liquid used to dissolve the powder (not the whole kit) and is suitable only for use in hospitals or other similar settings, typically for use during diagnostic tests.
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 in order to slow down the digestive tract.
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Briggs GG, Freeman RK, Yaffe SJ. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. 8th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2008.
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