4 Warning Symptoms of Uncontrolled Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar levels, also known as blood glucose, are too high. Ideally, a person manages their diabetes via a diabetes management plan. This includes learning how foods effect a person’s blood sugar so they can make changes to their diet that reduce high blood sugar occurrences, introducing exercise into their lifestyle and taking medication as prescribed by their doctor. However, not everyone is in control of his or her diabetes. There are several common warning signs to look out for that indicates your diabetes is not under control. Along with these warning signs are forms of treatment that should be administered.
Warning signs that you should know about
With diabetes comes awareness, taking action and a management plan. Ideally, a person with diabetes is active, aware of their diet and taking any prescribed medication. However, this is not always the case. Diabetes that is not under control can result in the following: hyperglycemia (high blood sugar, >180 mg/dL), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, <70 mg/dL), diabetic ketoacidosis (or DKA) and hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (or HHNS). Here is what you should know about these conditions.
- Hyperglycemia. Glucose comes from the foods that you eat. When a person has hyperglycemia, their blood glucose levels are too high. When glucose levels become too high, the body is not producing adequate amounts of insulin. You may be eating too many grams of carbohydrates, have become inactive or have forgotten to take your insulin medication. The signs of hyperglycemia include increased thirst, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, frequent urination and a blood sugar level of over 180 mg/dL. If your home glucometer reads “High” more than twice in one week you need to report this to your doctor as soon as possible.
- Hypoglycemia. When a person has blood glucose levels that are too low, this is referred to as hypoglycemia. The body needs glucose as a form of energy. The signs of hypoglycemia include irregular heart rhythm, anxiety, fatigue, hunger, sweating, irritability, crying out during sleep, pale skin, shakiness, appearing as though one is intoxicated due to clumsiness or slurred speech and a blood sugar level under 70 mg/dL. If you experience a low blood sugar more than twice in one week please contact your doctor.
- DKA develops when a person is not producing sufficient insulin or obtaining enough insulin. Without enough insulin, the body begins to break down fats as fuel. This process produces a buildup of acids in the blood called ketones. Diabetic ketoacidosis is most commonly associated with type 1 diabetes but can occur in any person dependent on insulin medications. DKA can be life-threatening left untreated. The signs of DKA include excessive thirst, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, frequent urination, confusion, shortness of breath and a blood sugar >250mg/dL.
- HHNS is a serious condition caused by extremely high blood sugar levels. As a result the body tries to rid itself of the excess blood sugar by passing it into the urine. It’s often triggered by illness or infection. Left untreated, diabetic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome can lead to life threatening dehydration. The condition most commonly occurs in people with type 2 diabetes and can take days or weeks to develop. The signs of HHNS include excessive thirst, frequent urination, fever, drowsiness, hallucinations, skin that is warm and dry, coma, vision loss, convulsions, fever and a blood sugar level that is over 600 mg/dL.
You can be in control of your diabetes
Here are some steps that you can take that will help you manage your diabetes.
- Blood sugar testing. Knowing what your blood sugar is, is the foundation of your diabetes management plan. Your doctor should have you self-testing your blood sugar with a blood glucose meter. Testing your blood sugar will provide you with awareness of the relationship between diet, exercise and your blood sugar. As for how often to check your blood glucose levels: with type 1 diabetes, you will need to test your blood sugar 2 or more times per day depending on your insulin regimen and blood sugar goals, whereas with type 2 diabetes you may need to test your blood one or more times per day depending on your medications. Blood sugar goals for all types of diabetes are fasting morning 70 to 130mg/dL and 2 hours after a meal <180mg/dL unless your doctor and you determine otherwise.
- Watch your carbohydrates (carbs). There is a relationship between carbs and blood sugar levels. You should be aware that carbs are broken down into sugar, which enters your bloodstream. Look for meal plans that are low is simple carbohydrates and encourage complex carbs, low fat proteins and healthy fats.
- Hypoglycemia treatment. Low blood sugar is a serious condition, follow these steps if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.
- Step 1 Check your blood glucose. If it is below 70 mg/dl, eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrate. Examples include: 3–4 glucose tablets or 15-gram tube of glucose gel or liquid or 1/2 cup fruit juice or 1/2 cup regular soda. If you cannot check your blood glucose right away, eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrate just to be safe.
- Step 2 Wait 15 minutes — this is important! It takes 15 minutes to feel better, no matter how much carbohydrate you use to treat the low blood glucose.
- Step 3 Check your blood glucose again. If your blood glucose level is still <70 mg/dl, or if you still have symptoms, repeat steps 1 through 3. If you still have low blood glucose after three checks, call 911.
- Step 4 Check your blood glucose one hour after treatment, as additional carbohydrate may be needed if you don’t have a meal or snack planned. (Blood glucose levels tend to drop about one hour after treatment).
- Avoid sweet beverages. When managing your diabetes and keeping your blood sugar under control, it is important that you avoid sugar sweeten beverages unless you are experiencing low blood sugar levels (less than 70mg/dL). This includes sodas, fruit juices, sport drinks and sweetened teas. Any beverage sweetened with table sugar, honey, agave, brown sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup will affect blood sugar by causing it to rise rapidly.
- Create an exercise plan. Coordinate with your doctor to create an exercise plan, as physical activity can help lower blood glucose levels.
- Store your insulin properly. When using insulin, it is important that it is stored in a safe manner. Tips for storing insulin include keeping your insulin away from extreme heat or cold, not leaving your insulin in direct sunlight or in the freezer, checking the expiration date and checking to make sure that the insulin looks normal before using it.
Overall, there are many symptoms to look out for when managing your diabetes, as well as means of treating these symptoms. Talk to your doctor and ask for a referral to see a Certified Diabetes Educator, together your health care team can help you develop the best plan for you to manage your diabetes. For more information on health, diabetes and pre-diabetes, visit our blog at City Hospital at White Rock and feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.