As a type I diabetic I often get questions about diabetes symptoms from both strangers and close friends alike. In most of these cases I am not sure that the person asking this question is curious about what symptoms I felt before I was actually diagnosed with juvenile diabetes or whether they are referring to what I feel when I have a high or low blood sugar. Usually when I asked specifically what they are curious about it is a pretty even split – so in this article I plan to cover it all. I will outline my diabetes symptoms at age 12 when I was first diagnosed, which I remember vividly, as well as my symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Hopefully with the latter I will be able to give you some personal insight into detecting your own blood sugar variations as there are few tips and insights I’ve picked up over the years in that regard.
Diabetes Symptoms – Getting Diagnosed with Type 1
For quite a while I thought the circumstances leading to my diagnosis with juvenile diabetes were quite unique. I was a fairly typical fifth-grader at the time. I was very active in sports, did well in school, always ate my fruit and vegetables and was overall very healthy mentally and physically. My symptoms began In the middle of the school year. I remember vividly waking up thirsty and immediately having. It seemed as though nothing could quench my thirst I would treat lots of water breakfast, any chance I could school, at lunch and generally whenever possible. Along with this either would have to urinate very for you throughout the day. Over a few days it became very noticeable to my elementary school teachers and classmates that I would have to ask to leave the room to the bathroom probably three or four times a day on top of the regular bathroom breaks. I wasn’t the class clown or pastor so my teachers always let me go but I knew they thought something was suspicious or is up to something.
I was going frequently enough where they would say “but you just went a moment ago.”
These were my earliest memorable diabetes symptoms.
Being the eternal optimist that I am, even in elementary school, I thought the symptoms of those feeling what past couple of days like most illnesses you get. The problem was the intensity of my thirst, my inability to focus and frequency of have to excuse myself the restroom just kept growing and growing. I think I put up with it a few days before time my mom that I wasn’t feeling well. Not knowing what to do she had me wait another day or so it seemed to pass and he just got the point where I felt rotten. On top of the previous list symptoms I was tired all the time. Not necessarily needing to fall asleep all the time, but I was worn out sick and just plain tired.
After this we scheduled an appointment to see a primary care doctor. I remember if this was one or two days after the end of the symptoms around for roughly 5 to 7 days, about a week, before I actually went to the doctor. At the doctor’s office I remember two female nurses asking me what my symptoms were if I had been eating sugary foods, which I had – Captain Crunch was my serial of choice at the time, and the usual medical history questions. They did some lab work and had me wait for the results which took over an hour. They got the lab work back and noticed the extreme leave a blood glucose level and my mom that there was an issue and I needed to go to the emergency room immediately and that they thought I had diabetes. Remember trying to tell the nurses that I had a big bowl of cereal for breakfast which would explain why my blood sugar was high. It turns out my blood sugar level was 917 – but that made no sense to the time. It could have been normal for all I knew. There was no history of diabetes in my extended family and none of my friends were diabetic. When I was diagnosed I had no clue what diabetes was and I honestly thought I did not have long to live – which oddly enough to not scare me.
I ended up in the hospital for three days and left with a condensed education on how to survive in my brave new world. (Basically I had no clue what I was doing – more on that in future posts)
This long coming-out story about my diabetes symptoms leading to my diagnosis can be summarized in the following bullet points
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent Need to Urinate
- Tired/Worn Out/Sleepy
- Lack of Focus and Concentration
As the slight disclaimer I must say that these are my personal symptoms and experiences and may not be the only symptoms to look out for. It is always important to visit your doctor if you are at risk or think you may have diabetes as they will be able to do specific diagnosis tests.
Hypoglycemia – Low Blood Sugar Diabetes Symptoms
It is very important to get to know your body’s symptoms of hypoglycemia. For me low blood sugar symptoms come in a few different forms, some of which may be difficult to pick up depending on the circumstances. Diabetes symptoms are noticeable in different ways to different people so learn as much as possible about detecting lows.
The very first sign of me having a low blood sugar is a somewhat strange under the skin feeling. I presume this is when my body is producing an excess of adrenaline but not to the point where it makes me feel hyper or my heart starts beating faster. It’s a very subtle feeling almost as though you are aware of a part of your body that you normally do not notice. I generally get the sensation in my lower arms and the top side of my wrist. The feeling is so subtle that if you experience it for the first time he probably would not attribute it to anything unusual. If you have been diagnosed recently my finds us to test your blood sugar every time you feel strange, odd or different than normal. At first you may be checking your blood sugar a lot more than your doctor recommends but it is vital for you to figure out what symptoms and feelings are related to diabetes be in separate them from feelings of hunger or post-workout fatigue or any number of other things.
The next level of low blood sugar symptoms I find myself reacting to our cold sweats and an elevated heart rate. Unfortunately the symptoms of hypoglycemia bend in perfectly with exercise when many times you are at higher risk of hypoglycemia. I occasionally miss the symptoms at the stage after a long run because I attribute my fatigue, elevated heart rate and sweating to my exercise only and do not think my diabetes is a factor. Because I have been exercising more vigorously as of late I do plan on adding a continuous glucose meter to my diabetes management as it will alert me to these rare but unexpected lows.
At this point most people would be well aware of their low blood sugar. You can see it in the form of perspiration; you have a full body sensation (shaky/odd feeling) and are usually a bit faint or pale. Many times at this level people around you will also be able to detect that something is not right.
Beyond this you are nearing serious consequences with your low blood sugar. I fortunately have not had an extremely low blood sugar other than once quite a few years ago. What happened was while sleeping with my insulin pump on I somehow managed to roll on it in just the right sequence to give myself a polis of 20 units of Humalog. I woke up in an extreme cold sweat. I was very fatigued and tired and felt as though my whole bed was drenched for my sweat which meant that for a while. I went downstairs quickly as possible, went straight to the bridge and drink quite a bit of orange juice. I remember sitting in the kitchen the dark for quite a while just we for the cold sweats to stop for my body to begin to feel normal again. This is definitely not a very definitive description of the symptoms at this point but you get this low you know something is wrong and begin to feel helpless because the symptoms are so strong.
I definitely have a lot more to say about diabetes symptoms and detecting them as quickly as possible. Check out the other posts on my blog for more insight.