So, You Think You Know Diabetes? #3

Hello everyone, and welcome back to “So, You Think You Diabetes?”.  Do you feel a little smarter about this super complex and confusing disease? Yeah, me either.  But that’s ok.  We’ve only just scratched the surface.  Now, I was originally going to do this one long post with this and next week’s topic in one post, but I’ve originally tried to write this post once, and it was just too long.  So, it’s getting broken up into two sections, which works out perfectly.  So, are you read to dive in to this week’s topic:

Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

Well, let’s get right down to business.  Hypoglycemia is a condition where there is a lack of glucose in the blood.  Usually, hypoglycemia is defined as anything under 70 mg/dl.  mg/dL is what diabetics use in the United States for blood sugar measurement.  It stands for milligrams per deciliter, which is quite a minute measurement (considering most glucometers only require a single drop of blood).  For my international readers, that would be 3.9 mmol/L (millimole per liter).

There are so many signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, and each diabetic has their own unique reaction to a sudden drop in blood sugar.  Some of those signs and symptoms include:

  • shakes (usually presents itself in the hands, and even then most of the time it’s a rather minor shake.)
  • sweats/clamminess (not a great combination.  I’ve usually experienced this only when blood glucose dips to rather low levels like 40 mg/dL.)
  • numbness/tingling of the lips/tongue (I had to go to my primary source for the rest of the list, since this these are symptoms that I don’t see or experience, and this was the first one on the list.)
  • blurred vision (or, as it was explained to me, “seeing in mother of pearl”, as well as not being able to focus on a specific thing.)
  • headaches (makes sense, as the head/brain is very sensitive to bodily changes.)
  • sleepiness/tiredness/fatigue (looping these two together because it makes sense to do so.  Usually goes hand in hand with each other.)
  • lack of coordination (I’ve likened this to seeing someone being drunk with all the wobbling and staggering.)

There are, of course, other symptoms.  Most of them usually have to do with emotional aspects, such as irritability, nervousness/anxiousness, anger/sadness/stubbornness, confusion; while other symptoms include hunger, and weirdly, nightmares.

Well, what does one need to do in order to treat hypoglycemia? With sugar, of course.  After all, as we discussed earlier, it is the lack of sugar in the blood that causes hypoglycemia, it’s only natural that the fix would be introducing sugar in the blood stream. Pretty much anything works here.  Seriously.  From straight sugar and honey to anything with sugar in it, whether it’s natural sugars (like fruit), to processed items (candy and juices).  Also, if you take a look in the diabetic supplies section of your pharmacies or certain major stores, you’ll find handy items like glucose tabs, gels, and drinks.

Now, there are extreme cases where someone has some dangerously low blood sugars.  Low enough that they can not correct the low on their own (I’ve seen that happen before.)  In my personal experience, it was “the lights were on, but nobody was home” kind of scenario.  There are some other cases where a person blacks out and has seizures.  This, is where you, a conscious person comes in.  There’s a prescription product out there called Glucagon.  Glucagon essentially acts like a jump starter in that it talks to the liver and tells it “mayday, mayday, release the Kraken.”

Ok, so maybe it doesn’t do that.  But, it does tell it to release it’s stored glucose to help bring the blood glucose levels back to a “normal” level.  This is a very helpful product for someone whose lights go out and cannot orally do sugar.  I thankfully have never had to administer this product myself.

Confused Jackie Chan - I'M SO CONFUSED!

The last thing that I want to talk about is hypoglycemic unawareness.  The biggest problem with this is that it is completely unavoidable.  If you’ve been a diabetic for a long time, you are going to have moments of hypoglycemic unawareness.  So, if you’ve had any of the signs and symptoms above (and there are many more that I didn’t list) in the past, and suddenly, you go to check your blood sugar and find that “hey, I’m under 60 mg/dL and this is a surprise”, then you’ve probably gone through some form of hypoglyemic unawareness.  Also, if some of the signs and symptoms are common place for you (like constantly being tired/fatigued or having lots of headaches), it’s a little harder to determine if it’s just you being tired or your blood sugar dropping.

Well, there you have it with hypoglycemia.  Hopefully this quick and simple go-over will help you, the non-diabetic, understand this topic better.  On a personal story, the day I was talking with my primary source about her hypoglycemic symptoms, I started to have some pretty bad body shakes and was getting really, really hot.  I was told that I needed to go check my blood sugar, and I actually went to go do it.  If there are any diabetics that are out there that are reading this, I now know what you have to go through about 7-10 times a day, every day, for the rest of your life.  I ended up getting stuck three times in order to get enough blood to fill the test strip.  My sugar was…126.  So, I wasn’t low, just needed to eat.  But, thank you so much for reading.  And until next time, I am the Baumeister, and I have been, obediently yours.

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