Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Beginners Guide to Hypos

Hypos are inevitable when you’re diabetic, there’s no way around it. Even with the most rigid control, something is bound to go wrong eventually, it’s how life works. So it’s pretty important to know what exactly a hypo is since they are what seem to cause most of a diabetics problems. It’s the reason why there are problems with getting a drivers license, and becoming a police officer for example.
One of the questions I’m always asked at my hospital appointments is, can I recognize my hypos? I’m lucky enough in that department in that I’ve got very recognizable hypo signs. Unfortunately my hypo signs make me feel awful, and that’s not good for me in general. I don’t want to feel like crap every time I go hypo, even though it helps me know what’s up.
Hypos vary from person to person but there are common signs out there, including:

  • Tiredness

  • Shaking

  • Dizziness

  • Difficulty in concentrating

  • Hunger

  • Blurry vision

  • Moodiness

More severe

  • Odd behavior (may appear drunk)

  • Bad tempered

  • Aggressive

  • Unconscious (obviously this is the worst, bar actual death)

These are all the general ones that you can find in all the diabetes help books and it’s a good place to start if you’re trying to identify your own hypo signs but no two hypos are exactly the same.

For example, my hypo signs include the tiredness, shaking, and difficulty concentrating from the above list but if I had to describe how a hypo felt, I would say it’s like I become more… aware, of my body. I can feel the strain in my arm when I lift it, how much effort it takes to take a breath. In general, I feel how much work it is for my body to actually do the stuff it does everyday without me realizing how complicated the whole system inside me is. It also feels like my sense of touch has increased, like I can actually feel the air around me, and it makes my clothes feel so coarse. On a lighter note, hypo’s also make my handwriting messy, probably because of the concentrating and shaking, so it makes hypo’s easier to spot when I’m in school.
Trying to describe what a hypo is like to someone not in the know is hard. I’m trying to describe something that is akin to an extra sense to me so I guess it’s kind of like describing sight or taste.
Fortunately, hypos are easy to treat, and they also give you an excuse to eat sweet things, though I probably shouldn’t say that. It’s simple enough to just drink some Lucozade or eat some Lucozade tablets; the sugar in them is so fast-acting that your hypo will be gone in no time (gee, I sound like a cheesy ad).Personally, I’d recommend buying Dextrose tablets instead. They do the same thing but I don’t like Lucozade and Lucozade tablets are so nice I end up eating the whole pack, and as any fool knows, eating a whole packet of sweets is not good for a diabetic at all.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Not To Be Diagnosed: Part 2

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the more serious diabetic-related conditions. It can damage your eyesight and even cause blindness; which is pretty serious; on a list of worst outcomes of bad diabetes it would rank somewhere around leg amputation. Unlike leg amputation however, your eyesight deteriorating can be a sign of undiagnosed diabetes.
It’s an uncommon but not unheard of symptom and is caused by the excess sugar in your blood blocking up the blood vessels in your eyes. This can caught in time if an optician takes a picture of the back of your eyes since the sugar can be seen in that picture… but if you read my last post or even if you’ve read the title of this piece you may guess where I’m going with this. Yes, this was yet another one of the symptoms I had and yes, it wasn’t caught in time to stop my inevitable trip to ER.

It all started on a particular Thursday about two weeks before I was diagnosed. I woke up to find I had strangely developed near-sightedness overnight. I could easily see my hand and read books but couldn’t see anything clearly beyond about 20 feet, with all accompanying problems like seeing writing on a blackboard and the like. However, in my mind it was impossible to develop near-sightedness overnight so I ignored it, or blamed it on blurry morning eyes, but after a while it became quite hard to ignore. After a week I finally realized something was wrong with me so I ended up going to see the optician.

That should’ve solved everything. To be fair to the opticians, bad sight is a fairly uncommon symptom but they’re far more likely to know that than I am, and I also clearly remember telling them that diabetes runs in my family. Yet all the optician (who will remain nameless, not because I’m nice or anything but because I can’t actually remember the name) did was do some simple tests like reading letters and shining lights, conclude that I was near-sighted, sell me some expensive glasses and send me on my way. A few hectic days later, I was in the hospital, having no problem reading far off signs and seeing far off objects. My eyesight problems had cleared up when I got my levels under control.

After I got out of hospital I went to a different optician who explained about taking pictures of the back of the eye while showing me the back of my eye and pointing out what would have been seen when my eyesight was bad. She concluded by telling me that not only was my eyesight back to normal, it was actually above average. So everyone was happy, except my mum, who was still pissed off at the previous optician for their shoddy check-up and expensive glasses and now boycotts the place.

Nowadays I don’t have any eyesight problems but I check every so often that I can still see far off objects, just in case.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Not To Be Diagnosed: Part 1

The five stages of dealing with grief-striking events are generally stated as being denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Common sense and a number of magazine articles I’ve read seem to indicate that being diagnosed diabetic would bring these stages on but I never really went through these. My diagnosis didn’t cause any major distress or anything like that; one minute I wasn’t diabetic, the next I was with no mental problem in between. It’s not the only strange thing about my diagnosis: I’ve yet to hear about another case where the person was a breath away from a coma before being diagnosed, and it’s always made me feel rather annoyed that no one else seems to need to be close to death before someone notices that maybe something’s wrong with them.

A very common symptom of undiagnosed diabetes is dehydration, which leads to thirst, constant bathroom breaks and sometimes wetting the bed, though thankfully I didn’t get that. I ended up with increasingly demanding thirst for around five weeks before my diagnosis and spent all that time drinking cranberry juice and bringing 2 bottles of water to school while blaming my thirst on the new water filter we had bought. I was also waking up at midnight to use the bathroom and leaving in the middle of classes for the same reason but I didn’t catch the change in schedule, probably because cataloguing bathroom visits was, and is, never the first thing on my mind.
In every account of a diagnosis I've read, the person in question has always had these symptoms, so it's something I try to watch out for in people I know, just in case.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I was recently asked by a friend of mine, "What exactly is diabetes really, when you get down to it?" When asked this my answer is usually something along the lines of "when your body can't produce the hormone that breaks down food into energy, so you have to take it other ways." This I know isn't much of an answer but diabetes really can't be explained in one sentence, or one blog post for that matter.

I'm no medical student so I won't be running a health blog, or a medical breakthrough blog, or a what's new in diabetes blog or whatever. This will be where I share my thoughts, experiences and opinions on diabetes that I have gained in the best way possible; by living with it while also living with the problems of a regular teenager.

So on a completely unrelated note, here's a cute picture of a kitten:
Some ducks as well.