It was brought to my attention recently that in all my diabetic ramblings, I’ve never gone into the effects or symptoms of high and low blood sugar in much detail. Quite an important part of understanding diabetes really, isn’t it?
For all you lucky non diabetics out there, your blood sugar would usually sit between 4.0 mmol – 7.0 mmol. I’m aware that those figures have recently been reviewed and they now say that the highest ideal figure is 5.9 mmol, but I’m not sure why as I know a lot of healthy non diabetics who often have their sugar levels in the 6s. Lets be honest, the way the media and so called experts chop and change with advice on most things these days, I’m inclined to think as long as you’re healthy and your doctor isn’t concerned then you’ll be fine.
Low blood sugar occurs when there is too much insulin in your system. It can also be brought on by not eating, in diabetics and non diabetics alike. Also, sometimes, just diabetes. It’s a volatile, awkward, stubborn and often inconvenient disease that cares not for any plans you may have. Take me this morning for example. I was up until about 5am, because lately I’ve apparently became nocturnal. “Doesn’t matter” I thought,” I’ll sleep in tomorrow and go about my day.” Ha. It’s like I haven’t had this thing for the past 14 years.
Bang on 8am this morning, I awoke with the familiar pulsing vision, with black splodges seriously impairing my sight. I was clammy, my head was spinning, I could feel myself shaking all over. I groaned, rolled over, scanned my sensor which told me my glucose level was 2.2 mmol (the lowest reading possible on my sensor before it just reads LO) and grabbed my Lucozade off my bedside table. I keep one there at all times, it makes life so much easier than me trying to stumble anywhere when I’m about as steady on my feet as Bambi on ice. I also start to slur quite heavily, talking in very stilted sentences, because I’m having to literally plan out what it is I want to say in advance. It’s like every single little function that you usually do without a second thought, becomes this new alien concept that you have to really think about, and force yourself to do. Symptoms vary dependant on the severity of the hypo, and as ridiculous as it sounds, on the time of day. A hypo during the day often barely slows me down. However, mornings like today when I wake up already low, I’m pretty much written off for the day. “Hypo hangover” I like to call it. I also become incredibly snappy and grouchy with low blood sugar. (More than usual).
High blood sugars, whilst not as debilitating as low blood sugar for me personally, usually cause me the most physical discomfort. I become lethargic, groggy, and my muscles begin to tighten up and ache. My head pounds, mouth dries out and I struggle to keep focus on anything. There are few joys in life like a pint of water when your bloods go high. Imagine the morning after a night of heavy drinking, when you wake up and your mouth is so dry that your tongue is practically stuck to the roof of your mouth and you can’t even swallow. Yeah, times that by 100. It’s horrendous. I once managed 4 pints of water, 1 after the other, in about 2 minutes. And then spent the next hour freaking out about that condition where you can basically drown yourself internally from drinking too much. Yeah, told you I think too much. My sensor stops reading at about 28 mmol before just reading “HI”. It’s not very useful and the amount of times I’ve had to guestimate whereabouts I think my bloods might be sitting before administering the injection that can quite easily kill me if I get wrong is more than I care to admit. No pressure, right?
Complications from high blood sugar are the ones you read in the media scaremongering all the time. Amputation, blindness, kidney failure etc. All very real and possible options if you don’t take this disease seriously, and something I wish I had paid more thought to when I was younger. Unfortunately, I was suffering from teenage invincibility syndrome that I’m sure many people will relate to, whether through themselves or through any teenagers they may know. I’m not trying to scare anyone. I’m just putting across the potential very real situation. DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) is one that you don’t hear about often, but incredibly deadly. I wrote about this briefly in my first ever blog. It occurs when your blood sugar level is so high, your body begins burning muscle instead of fat and your blood basically starts becoming acidic. I was 16 when I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, with my kidneys shutting down and my body going into shock. A few days in a high dependency unit hooked up to all kinds of IV’s sorted me out soon enough, but it was one hell of a wake up call.
Now, I’ve said before, Diabetes changes from person to person. There could be a 22 year old girl sat reading this right now, diagnosed for the same length of time, thinking that her symptoms aren’t anything like what I’m describing. That is totally normal.
One of the joys of this condition (not) is the invisibility of it all. People are sceptical about things that they can’t physically see. If I was throwing up, or covered in a rash etc, people wouldn’t question a thing. Instead, I have to try my best to explain that I’m exhausted from the war that my own body is waging on itself from the inside. There are days when I’m so drained, it takes all my effort just to move off the couch. There are days when my muscles ache so badly, I walk like an OAP with arthritis. There are days when my skin hurts all over from jabs and needles and the bruises that often cover my stomach or thighs. It’s not just a physical exhaustion. It’s mentally and emotionally crippling at times too.
But you keep on. You have to, because the minute you let this disease win, it’s a long road back. It takes incredible strength and determination, more than people will ever realise, all I can do is document my experiences and hope people take it all on board.