Tuesday, 29 May 2007

When symptoms get weird

You are probably aware of the typical symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar). There's plenty of information available on the net about them if you aren't. Chances are good that you're here reading this because you're diabetic, so you know all about it.

The general consensus is that low blood sugar can bring on the shakes, make your heart race, make you hungry (a hunger like you may never ever know if you aren't diabetic), make you sweat, and stop you thinking straight - among many other symptoms.

As with anything, symptoms can display quite differently in different people. In general though, we get a hold on our symptoms and (not forgetting those with hypo-unawareness) we're able to catch it before it gets worse.

What then, if your symptoms change regularly? Am I alone in this? Surely not!

I often get the common symptoms including a racing heart, feeling shaky, disoriented, and hungry. Every now & then I get odd ones though. It takes me a while to recognise them as symptoms, sometimes weeks - and usually by the time I have it sussed it changes to something else equally as weird. (Murphy's law strikes again?)

A few months ago I started feeling quite sick when my blood sugar got low. It didn't even have to get very low - mid 4's - still in the safety zone, but if I'm feeling low then I treat it anyway in case I'm dropping or can't trust my meter reading. So there it was, I was feeling nausea sometimes a couple of times a day. And I had to EAT to make it go away. Yick!

Just last week a new symptom started. Yawning. Yes yawning! A weird one for sure. It made me think I had high BG, as feeling tired would be normal for highs. But no... three times so far I've found myself yawning constantly with barely a break for breathing. I'd test, and I'd be in the low 4s or high 3s. The yawning would stop once I'd had a lolly or a drink containing sugar. I think this is my weirdest one yet...

One ongoing symptom I have that doesn't seem to match the 'norm' is needing to pee. It's a very common symptom for HIGH BG, but for low? WHY would my body do this to me?

Now, imagine a low sneaks up on you. You must eat. You probably want to test so you can figure out how much glucose you need to bring you back to normal. The brain isn't working quite right but you have to get sugar in you quick-smart before it gets lower and becomes a real danger. But no... first you HAVE to pee. I mean seriously, this is a need to pee like no other. A desperate need to go, even if I should already have an empty bladder. How weird is that? Perhaps it's wrong, but I always visit the bathroom first... eating/drinking & testing can wait. I just don't want to make a mess, and that's how desperately I need to go.

I also get ridiculous thirst when I'm low - yet another symptom that is meant to be reserved for high BGs. I'm sure it doesn't help me when I've sipped coke or munched a lolly, and then I water it down... but I can't avoid it, I HAVE to drink, and it must be water, and lots of it.

Another typical symptom for me is a bit of moodiness. I can avoid this if I'm not too low, or if I treat really quickly, but if my BG drops further or stays down for too long, WATCH OUT WORLD!! I'll be wondering why the people around me aren't worrying about me, aren't offering me the food I must have INSTANTLY, and aren't asking me if I'm OK .... Or, if they actually are trying to help, I'll be wondering why they wont piss off. Wishing they'd leave me alone, after all, I'm quite capable of looking after myself and sometimes I'm embarrassed if I'm being a bit 'wobbly'. Generally I manage to keep my moodiness in check, but I suspect that one of these days I'll bite someone's head off for some silly reason that will only make sense to me, and even then, not for long.

If a low is sneaking up on me without obvious symptoms I often find the tell-tale sign is in my thoughts. Without realising it, I'll start thinking, or maybe even talking, about diabetes. Whatever I'm doing, I know it's time to grab the meter if I suddenly find my mind has travelled to thoughts about testing my blood sugar, eating sugary treats, or crazy things one might need to do if one went low while travelling in space on a golden banana with only Neil Gaiman for company... (would he be sweet enough? Could I just nibble one of his fingers, d'ya think? Would he mind donating body parts to save a woman in need?).

I once talked to my Auntie on the phone for a good half an hour about my history with diabetes, about other people's lack of understanding, about how it feels to worry about my future - OK, no problem discussing these things with people, but I probably wasn't making a lot of sense and I should have realised that she wouldn't have understood half of what I said (the diabetes lingo, and just the fact that I raved on and on...). Poor woman! When I tested after getting off the phone I suddenly understood why I'd done it. That was the day I realised I should listen to my subconscious thoughts!

So basically what I'm saying is that I'm weird. But I'm not alone... am I?


Simon said...

Nope, it isn't just you.

The only consistent symptom I get is blurred eyesight. The other symptoms I'm generally unaware of, although I know I get moody - I've been told I do!

One thing I do know is that diabetes is as variable as the weather. Just when I think that I know what's what the damn thing changes. I never know if I'm coming or going. I DO know that I WILL keep ahead of it though!

Val said...

My one consistent signal of a low is an urgent need to pee. More typical symptoms come and go, but when I feel anything it's usually accompanied by an urgent dash to the bathroom. I actually have considered storing a bunch of juice boxes on the back of the toilet, so I don't have to search for them after. (And drink anything before - no way!)

Scott K. Johnson said...

I've noticed that my symptoms can change periodically too.

Seems to happen just when you think you can count on one thing or another to be a sure fire signal!

Jonah said...

I don't have a single consistant symptom. Generally a symptom will accompany hypos for a few weeks and then bye bye. Symptoms that have done that include: weird swirly vision, bursting out crying for very minor reasons (oh no Rafi said I wasn't his friend back in fourth grade), shaky hands, racing pulse, heat, inability to focus, stammering.
However, every single hypo below 40 has been accompanied by tunnel vision. My first hypo below forty was in January and my most recent was about two weeks ago.