Ah, Symptoms…

I scarcely remember life before I was diagnosed with type-1 Diabetes. bearing in mind that I’m in my 40’s and I was diagnosed at the age of 4 years old, that should be all that surprising. But I do have memories of enjoying certain foods with impunity, drinking sugared soda and being able to go to bed without getting poked by needles and wondering if I would make the night. And no, before anyone starts commenting, the aforementioned consumption didn’t play a role in my being diagnosed with Diabetes.

Although the content of some of my posts tends to repeat itself, I find that some of them are worth a reminder, every six months or so. I’ve written about Diabetic symptoms before, but it’s never a bad thing to get a refresher. This can be particularly important for folks who WORK with Diabetics, as not everyone is as forthcoming about their health in the workplace as I am. There a lot of reasons for this, including embarrassment. Some people are embarrassed at the prospect of divulging ANY health condition, but there’s often a stigma behind Diabetes where a good portion of the population assumes it’s caused by poor diet and lack of exercise.

I’ve always lived by the concept of full disclosure, choosing to divulge my condition and its potential symptoms and treatments, as opposed to claiming privacy or keeping it hidden. When it comes to a condition that could potentially kill me if something happens and no one knows what’s happening, I prefer this method to the alternative. But that’s just me; to each their own. But it’s good to recognize some of the outlying symptoms of Diabetes, in the event someone in your life may be diagnosed with this condition.

In someone who hasn’t been diagnosed, it may be noticed that they’ll have an increased thirst, increased hunger and frequent urination. In fact, these three symptoms may be the most common in someone who hasn’t yet been diagnosed. But body weight fluctuations, mood swings and irritability, fatigue and blurry vision will also appear. In children and even some adults, they may catch themselves wetting the bed in stages where they wouldn’t have done so before.

One would think that bed wetting may be a strange symptom. The problem is that since a Diabetic person doesn’t process glucose properly and creates that increase in urine (frequent urination, remember?), the strain on one’s bladder can cause wetting of the bed where there was none before. I know that when I was first diagnosed, I wet the bed for the first few weeks until my blood sugars were brought under control. The temporary solution was to have me wear a diaper to bed, which was SUPER fun for a 4-year old. But i digress…

But for someone with Diabetes, there can be different symptoms based on whether you’re experiencing high or low blood sugars. I should point out that these symptoms can also be subjective to the person and are not all-encompassing. For example, high blood sugars will cause many of the overall symptoms of someone who hasn’t been diagnosed. This can include thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea and body pains. Someone may get close enough to you to realize that your breath also has a fruity tinge to it.

The increased thirst is the worst, in my opinion, since it causes what I call “the Diabetic Loop.” You have increased thirst and dry mouth, so you drink more water. This aggravates the frequent urination and makes it worse, having you running for the bathroom constantly. But you’re still thirsty, so you pile more water down your gullet. Rinse and repeat. It can be a particularly huge pain in the ass during the night when you’re trying to sleep but your bladder wakes you almost every hour.

If one is suffering from low blood sugar, they may experience or demonstrate symptoms such as shaking, sweating and pale skin. They’ll have difficulties concentration and may be irritable or even violent. This is a particular one because in my case, the irritability comes out when my blood sugars are high. Low blood sugar may cause confusion and numbness in some extremeties (I used to know I was low because my tongue would go numb, of all things).

The irritability thing is subjective but tends to happen because your brain needs glucose to function properly. This means that if you’re suffering from low blood sugar, your brain isn’t being fed adequately and may malfunction, for lack of a better term. It can cause a whole slew of emotional responses, most of them not good. I usually get angry, although I prefer to think it’s “hangry.”

If you have Diabetes, you can avoid many of these symptoms with a few lifestyle adjustments and being prepared. Exercise regularly, eat properly, get enough sleep and test your blood sugars often. Just doing these few things will go a long way towards ensuring you don’t have to do battle with a constant armada of Diabetic symptoms.

If you’re a friend, co-worker or family member of a loved one w you believe is experiencing Diabetic symptoms, the situation will always fall under two categories. If the sufferer is able to communicate clearly, he/she will tell you what they need or take care of it themselves. If they are unconscious or unable to communicate clearly, simply call 911.

Although opinions vary, I always advise people never to try and feed a Diabetic any glucose. Setting aside the fact that they could potentially choke on whatever you try and feed them, without knowing whether the person is suffering a high or a low, you run the risk of aggravating the situation. Better to wait for the professionals to arrive and deal with the patient accordingly.

If you choose to keep your Diabetes private, good for you. That’s your choice and you’re free to exercise it. Myself, I’ve discussed my Diabetes at length with my boss and my family, including what treatments I obtain and what preventative measures I take, as well as what they can do if something happens. It’s a hell of a safety net and makes me feel safer. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved, right? ☯️

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I am a practitioner of the martial arts and student of the Buddhist faith. I have been a Type 1 Diabetic since I was 4 years old and have been fighting the uphill battle it includes ever since. I enjoy fitness and health and looking for new ways to improve both, as well as examining the many questions of life. Although I have no formal medical training, I have amassed a wealth of knowledge regarding health, Diabetes, martial arts as well as Buddhism and philosophy. My goal is to share this information with the world, and perhaps provide some sarcastic humour along the way. Welcome!

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