Tag Archives: blood glucose

How Many Scares Does it Take? And Why Aren’t I More Worried?

 

Since I’ve never had to use a Glucagon, I’ve never been good about remembering to get a new one once the old one expires.  Thank God they always expire instead of get used but still…

Last night, I caught a stomach virus that’s been going around.  I started feeling really awful around 8:30pm and just laid down on the bed.  I don’t know if I ever fell asleep but I do know that at some point I felt low but, couldn’t move or hardly talk.  Luckily, my husband was in the room and noticed I was trying to say something.  I was able to mutter the word, “low” and he took off for some juice.  He sat me up in bed and put the bottle of orange juice up to my mouth.  I downed two bottles.  A little later he tested my sugar which was 47.   Then an hour later my sugar was 52 and I started feeling nauseated and thought I might throw up.  Well, I did-plenty of times.  30 minutes later I was 44.  I downed lots of sugar even though I thought it was just going to come right back up.  I was beginning to have a major headache from the lack of glucose in my brain.  30 minutes later I was 42! 

I started getting scared.  I had downed all the juice in the house and had begun drinking several cups of sugar water (not appealing to a nauseated stomach).

I called my parents and my dad showed up around midnight with jello, crackers, juice, and most importantly, a glucagon.

Why didn’t I ever have one ready? 

Luckily I never threw up again and my blood sugar stabilized at 80, but I did get welcomed with blood sugars over 250 and 300 in the early AM hours.  Yay, isn’t it wonderful to bounce from one extreme to the other?

This made me realize (and so did my insistent mother) that I don’t have an emergency kit.  I’ve written about it and I myself don’t have one?  So anyway, here is what I will assemble as soon as I’m able:

Juice

Glucose tabs

Glucagon

Glucose gel

Crackers

Ketone strips

And as my mom thoughtfully pointed out, this kit should never be used except for emergencies.  That way, when there is an emergency you don’t say, “Uh oh, I’ve already drank my kit’s juice supply”.

Anyway, Is there anything I’m missing?  Let me know, I want to be prepared next time!

You know, this being Diabetes Awareness Month… I know a lot of non-diabetic people who have had a least one near death experience.  They tell the story at dinner tables, parties, and reunions.  They write about it in their journals and memoirs.  It’s a big deal.

We diabetics probably can’t keep up with our near death experiences.  There may be too many!  I mean, I can tell you at least 10 different times I came close to the worst case scenario but, it’s not even a big deal to me anymore.  Ok, it is, but, I’m kind of jaded.  Like, when I get scared after an incident like this and I think, Man! I could have died…I turn around and realize I’m not the least bit frightened or anxious about it the very next day. 

It’s like my way of life, my “normal”.  You know how some people who grow up in violent places are numb to violence?  Sometimes I feel numb to fear about my diabetes.  Maybe that’s just me.  Maybe I’ve just accepted everything I know which could go wrong.  Maybe I’ve got bucket loads of faith that I’ll be alright.  Maybe I’ve simply gone too long without a super frightening experience.  It’s true that I haven’t ever gone unconscious or had a glucagon shot or been in the hospital with ketoacidosis.

Here’s something I found just plain sad last night.  My husband looked at me when I was 42 and not able to drink more juice and said, “Do you want to make a trip to the hospital?”

Without thinking twice I looked up at him like a child that could never tell a lie and said, “No, they’ll kill me!”

So we’ve got some fear and trust issues eh?

All in a day’s life with diabetes. 

Just another one of the million reasons we need a cure.  No one should accept the faintest possibility of death with so much calm.

Diabetes Juggling Act and Scary Creatures

 

I’m often most frustrated at my diabetes when I’m forced to multi-task between it and several other things.  I am a proponent of single-tasking in order to really give things the proper attention they deserve and in order to provide a greater focus to a task.  However, sometimes life makes you juggle a few more balls than you’d like. 

This week my son has been dealing with strep throat and because he has a twin sister and a diabetic mother, the week has been kind of nutty.  It has been a never ending stream of separating the babies so the other doesn’t get strep and disinfecting everything from the ground up about 3 feet (which is a lot of disinfecting!), trying to remember when pain medicine and antibiotic was given, cooking food for each meal only to find son won’t eat it, and last but not least, trying to keep on top of blood sugars even in the midst of feeling under the weather.

Yesterday I carried both my kids for 30 minutes (50 pounds in total) because they were crying pretty dramatically and finally when I thought my arms would burn off I decided to let them cry on the floor as I tested my sugar.  It was 32.  I’m sensitive to my children’s crying so much so that I separate logic and emotions and sometimes skip a diabetes related task just trying to comfort them.  That 32 snapped me out of that!

Still, I felt immensely frustrated because the diabetes was in the way of my mothering and I didn’t want it to be.  And what if something had happened to me?  I was alone!  Well, later that day Alex came home early to help and my mother came back over (she came by that morning as well).  Three adults and two babies and it was still plenty hectic.  At least I could test at this point without a baby trying to grab my meter and run with it.

Something else has been bothering me this week…I’ve spotted a bug twice in two days that I’ve never seen before (and I’ve lived here well over two decades!)  At first I think, “A spider? no…a giant stink bug? no…an evil praying mantis?”  My husband, whom I affectionately refer to as “animal planet” felt he knew what this was and captured the 1.5 inch long creature in a jar and after a little research we discovered the bug to be a blood sucking, disease carrying, “assassin bug”.  Supposedly these bugs are bed bugs if they get in your house and like to come out every couple days and fill up on animal or human blood for about 15-20 minutes.  I’m confused because why have I seen two in two days?  Husband and wife?  And why in Virginia?  They’re also called “kissing” bugs.  Did they hear Virginia is for lovers?  Apparently they are commonly found in Mexico, Central America, and South America.  In the US they’re found in Florida and Arizona more than anywhere else (which makes sense) but, why have they come way up here?  Doesn’t matter…what matters is this thing is a vampire and looks like this:

Wheelbug, a type of "assassin" or "kissing" bug
Wheelbug, a type of “assassin” or “kissing” bug
Top View
Top View

 

Sleep well tonight…. :)

The CGMS. Do you have better diabetes management with one?

Photo courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn
Photo courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn

 

I don’t have a CGMS.  I tried to get one during my twin pregnancy last year because the doubled amount of pregnancy hormones really challenged my blood sugars and of course I wanted great blood sugars while pregnant.  My doctors didn’t support my wanting one though (maybe because my A1c at the time of conception was a 4.6%?).  Three doctors all told me to relax on my diabetes management.  I told them to relax. 

Anyway, I mostly wanted one to catch late night lows and highs that I couldn’t catch during the day when I was awake.  Since I didn’t get one I just tested every hour during the day and this worked well.  I tested every 2 hours during the night and this also worked well (I had to make a trip to the bathroom every 2 hours anyway). 

My question to everyone is, does the CGMS help your blood sugar average?  Does it help you maintain your blood sugars on a more even keel?  Has it helped you lower your A1c?

Before I fight for a CGMS again, I want to know you all really like your CGMS.  I already know how to get a great A1c without a pump and without a CGMS but, maybe there is something you know that I don’t?  (Or maybe I’m doing this the hard way?)

I’m sure there is something you know that I don’t.  This is why I’m asking-no, begging you to share your thoughts on this matter.  I know there are others out there wondering the same thing.  After all, if it is “proven” that the pump and CGMS help lower an A1c than part of me can’t help but want to know what real people say (as opposed to studies).   

One of my main questions is, does having a CGMS help you avoid more swinging glucose numbers?  For example does it help you not have such high highs or low lows?  This, to me, seems like a great help.  Luckily, I feel lows and highs early but, let’s face it, sometimes we’re distracted with life and maybe a beep here or there would save the day?

So what do I stand to gain with a CGMS?  I guess that is what I really want to know :)

Anxiously awaiting your responses!

Make a diabetes back up supply stash!

 

I thought I’d let my life serve as a useful reminder for someone else again. 

All day today I haven’t tested my blood sugar.  My meter’s battery ran out.  I can’t really leave the house on my own with my 15 month old twins (we live on the 3rd floor).  I also wouldn’t attempt it without knowing my blood sugar status!

So I’ve been stuck for a while trying to figure out what my blood sugar is.  I think I figured it out.  I gave a small amount of insulin without eating and eventually started feeling low.  So I had some coffee with about 15 grams of sugar and have been sipping it slowly until I feel ok again.  So my guess is right now I’m about right. (Maybe…)

Anyway, I had extra batteries somewhere but, I can’t find them.  I bought them before moving to our current place.  My husband and I packed each night between 9 or 10pm until midnight for only a week.  So you can imagine by the last day I was throwing stuff in boxes and bags thinking “I’ll sort everything out when we unpack”.  That didn’t happen too well because the reason we didn’t have much time to pack was the reason we didn’t have much time to unpack:  those precious bundles of joy of ours. 

In case you haven’t already heard twin babies/toddlers really are a handful. 

I’ll keep searching for those batteries.  In the meantime, I urge us all to make a special stash of extra batteries for the meter, pump, and anything else that uses batteries.  Include a flash light, glucose tablets, and anything else you can think of!  Put this in a special place and then make a note somewhere (the fridge or computer maybe?) to remind you of where that stash is located.  (Don’t rely on memory it doesn’t work when you need it the most).

Wish me luck, I may have to go all day playing “Guess my glucose”.

Recent Update:  Around noon I discovered a meter my mom had received from some lady (I don’t know I just know we happily take free meters).  Anyway, It’s the Freestyle Freedom Lite.  It uses a tiny amount of blood…so tiny I find myself doubting it’s accuracy.  It gave me my reading in like 2 split seconds.  I am 81!  Not bad for guessing all morning.  When it gave the reading it beeped really loud and obnoxiously.  So thanks Freestyle but no thanks, I’ll stick with my Accucheck Aviva for now.  Well, once I get it some batteries that is.

Why you don’t need an insulin pump

 

Perhaps my most controversial post ever, let me begin by saying this is not about bashing insulin pumps.  I think they are a nice tool and a great piece of technology.  They’re just not great enough for me to use.

Nothing can compare to a fully functioning pancreas (duh) but, I find it interesting that most people I have talked to who have insulin pumps say they couldn’t live without it.  They mean it, too!  I understand.  I used to feel this way.  Yet, now that I’ve been off of the pump for a few years I realize I felt that way because of fear.  I can assure you there is nothing to be afraid of.  Please read on to find out what exactly I’m making a fuss about.

I recently heard someone say, “if you aren’t on the pump you must be crazy!”

Oh really?  Let’s be more open minded here.  First of all, why does it matter to me that people out there feel this strongly about having a pump?  Well, because of the negative power these words might have on an individual who cannot afford a pump or who for some reason or other cannot get access to one.  People should know it is very possible to manage their diabetes without one if that is the hand they are dealt at the moment.  I would hate to think some people out there feel they don’t have good control over their diabetes because they can’t get a pump.  This isn’t true but, they might be lead to believe it is.  They need empowerment and those of us who feel strongly about using all that modern technology has to offer should think twice before speaking.

Even my own doctor (I refer to him as my ex-doctor) laughed at me when I told him I wanted to get off of the pump.  He said, “nobody goes backwards, people always want to seek to improve their blood sugars, not disturb them”.  He disturbed me!  What ignorance!  (Its ok, he wrote about me later as a case example of a diabetic who did better coming off of the pump-although he still doesn’t understand how or why)

How come I  have A1c percentages in the 4-5% range (non-diabetic range) without a pump?  Is it assumed I’m doing something wrong?  I assure you my blood sugar is typically around 100 instead of swinging up and down.  So, there is one person’s proof they can do very well without a pump.  What about others?  Mary Tyler Moore doesn’t have one.  Many professional athletes don’t either.  Does this mean they are crazy or that their diabetes management is out of control?  I doubt athletes can perform well without controlled blood sugars.

There are valid reasons to choose not to have an insulin pump and those reasons should be recognized.

After several years scar tissue buildup becomes a serious issue for many people on the pump, causing changes in insulin absorption.  The famous Dr. Bernstein has said that after about 7 years on the pump, scar tissue is likely unavoidable and a real barrier against insulin absorption.  Interesting…I found my glucose numbers swinging mysteriously during my 6th consecutive year on the pump and decided to switch back to prehistoric syringes after 7 years.  Those glucose numbers stabilized with syringes.  Dr. Bernstein in fact, doesn’t even recommend insulin pumps to any of his patients.

I observe that there are more ways for a pump to potentially mess up your glucose than a syringe and vial of insulin.

Let’s take a look:

The syringe needle could break off (although it has only happened to me once).

I can’t think of more possible ways a syringe can go wrong.

The vial of insulin could be dropped and broken (I’ve dropped vials everywhere and luckily never broken one).

The pump itself is an imperfect machine which can go wrong (it may not go wrong, but the point is the potential is there-and I know it happened to me for no apparent reason more than once-a total mood killer when you hear the mad beeping).

The pump’s tubing can have air bubbles which cause high blood sugar if not caught in time.  You bolus for a meal and you think you are getting insulin when in fact all you got was air. (This also happened to me a couple of times, enough to infuriate me all the way to China).  The tubing can also knot and prevent insulin from reaching you. (I hear this often happens to active children and teens).

The pump’s battery might run out (obviously it warns you well ahead of time but, it is another thing to deal with).

You know, some people have told me, “well, at least with a pump you don’t have to carry anything around”.

I’m sorry, did I hear that correctly?  Does this mean you don’t carry around some form of sugar, emergency glucose gel, or glucose testing device?

For me, adding a small batch of syringes and a vial of insulin to the above required items is too easy.

Something I found negative in a pump was only an issue when tied to a specific person’s tendencies.  I call it being, “trigger happy”.

I gained a lot of weight when I first got on the pump the summer before 11th grade.  I was so excited to have insulin on me at all times and had heard the pump pitched to me as a way to eat whatever, whenever I wanted.  (Obviously not good advice.)  Problem was, I snacked just because I could do it so easily.  I also would give insulin when I suspected a high blood sugar and instead of testing first, I gave insulin with the pressing of a few buttons.  It was just too easy.

Now obviously this may not be you or most people.  Yet, I know I’m not the only one this happened to and honestly, I felt very free when I switched back to shots.  I thought twice before throwing something in my mouth because I had to give an injection for it.  I felt relieved that I was no longer addicted to the all too convenient buttons on the pump.  Again, I recognize this isn’t an issue for everyone.

Some people may feel that they enjoy the convenience of hitting buttons and enjoy snacking often.  Remember though, the more often you give insulin, the higher your margin of error due to a higher rate of incidence and the more unstable blood sugars you will have throughout the day.  This is scientific fact-not my own idea, and it has been talked about before.

I also wonder that if because insulin pumps make certain people so much money, insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals all end up promoting them over shots.  Just a thought.

Let me reiterate again that I am not against the pump.  If you have one and control your blood sugars well with it then that is awesome and I couldn’t be happier for you!  I am simply making a case for the cheaper, not-so-nifty, yet always reliable syringe which is so often made to look as the inferior alternative left for poor or unfortunate diabetics.

Thanks to syringes I give the exact amount of insulin I am intending on giving-every time.  This is priceless for me.  The fact that I can keep things simple and achieve great glucose numbers without something attached to my body is freeing for me.  I just want others to know that if they cannot try out a pump, don’t despair!  You can still manage your diabetes just as well with shots-if not better.  The goal for all of us diabetics is the same.  We deserve to freely choose how we reach that goal.

I know this struck some nerves so lets talk about it.  Just leave a comment :)

 

Surprising thing that happens after a low blood sugar episode

 

I had noted in my little moleskine about 2 years ago that it seemed whenever I had a low blood sugar episode, I became a bit less sensitive to insulin for the next few days.

This would be frustrating because every so often I’d feel as if I suddenly needed more insulin for a few days in a row and then I’d be back to “normal”. 

I take notes in order to troubleshoot certain trends and issues I encounter with my diabetes.  I randomly reviewed 1 page of notes and found they matched about 5 pages.  Turns out…there was always a low blood sugar episode before the subsequent rise in the amount of insulin needed (which lasted days).  This desensitization was worse in the case of a more severe low, by the way.

I did speak to a doctor who confirmed to me that this does happen in diabetics.  Interesting, how come this was the first I’ve heard of this?  Anyway, point is, this is helpful to know and I wish I would have known it all along.  Also, how many others are unaware?

So what to do with this info?

When you have a low reading, pay extra attention to your blood sugars for the next couple of days.  Do you have unexplainable highs?  Is your average higher than usual?  Do you find yourself giving extra insulin?  If so, do let me know.  I want to know if this is really true.  Together we can create some rough data to talk about.

What NOT to do with this information:

DO NOT go and give more insulin than you normally would after your next low sugar episode.  Be safe.  Test to know where your sugars are.  Communicate with your doctor.  Observe. 

And please, do get back to me on this one.

How I connected high blood sugar to delayed stomach emptying

 

Sometimes you got to play detective.  Here is my story:

I used to suffer from occasional periods of time where my blood sugar would be persistently high.  I would play cat and mouse with insulin and food just trying to normalize my blood sugars.

These periods would happen about every 3 or 4 weeks.  Strange.  And frustrating.

So I began taking notes:

-blood sugar been running high for 4 days

-need more than normal amount of insulin to lower high blood sugars

-feel fuller than normal lately and not very hungry

-been busy lately and have skipped a few workouts

-haven’t been drinking enough fluids and have had a few fast food meals this week

-haven’t been “regular” lately…maybe that is why I feel full?

hmmm…I called the doctor to ask if not having daily stomach emptying could cause insulin absorption to lessen.  He says, “It very well could but, I’m not sure”

Okayyy…

I decided to do a colon cleanse and see what that did for my blood sugars. 

Oh. my. gosh.

First my blood sugar went really low.  Then I notice it became very easy for me to keep blood sugars stable AND I didn’t need as much insulin as before.  ( repeat tests of this have proven the same thing every time by the way)

Now, to get to the root of the problem:  I asked myself  “why do I suffer periods of time where I don’t “go” everyday?”

I looked back at my notes and realized I had not been drinking enough water or eating enough fiber or exercising enough.  All of this which contributes to this little problem of oh lets just say it-constipation. (yeah, I just winced)

Anyway, I changed my eating habits, began drinking enough water, made sure to keep exercising, and made sure to keep natural senna tea on hand (for emergencies only). 

The result?  I no longer suffer from this frustrating “strange phenomenon” of monthly insulin de-sensitization and lingering high blood sugars.  What a relief! 

And all I had to do was use this:  diabetic troubleshooting method.

5 Ways to enjoy Halloween without messing up your blood sugars

       Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  How can you possibly be let down by costumes and candy?

Yet, for us diabetics Halloween is one big ugly temptation.  (Did I mention I was diagnosed with type 1 in 1994 a few days after Halloween?  I still regret eating all the candy I didn’t like first only to leave behind forever, “the best for last”.) 

Anyway, here are 5 ways to enjoy the holiday without suffering the consequences:

1.  Do not go hungry

Make sure you eat complete meals and plenty of filling protein so you don’t do what I have done which is catch a glimpse of your favorite candy bar, look left and right, and quickly shove it in your mouth.  (Don’t judge!)

2.  Get into a costume

Get your focus away from edible goodies and find yourself an awesome costume to put your excitement into. 

3.  If you must have some candy…

Don’t eat it too late.  Check your blood sugar often.  Make sure you give enough insulin and definitely check before bed.  This is what I do because honestly, I have to have a few Snickers and family (you know, Babe Ruth, Milky Way, Take 5, etc) on Halloween.

4.  Decide

If you have decided the best thing for you is to resist all temptation-make the decision and stand by it.  Treat yourself to something nice like a pedicure so you feel rewarded. 

5.  Discipline

Whatever your plan is for Halloween make sure your health comes first.  I know a top goal for women is to be fabulous (whether you admit it or not) and the best way to be fabulous is to protect your health. 

Good luck and remember, you do not need that whole bag of chocolates, just a handful perhaps?

Happy Halloween!

Can diabetic nerve damage be reversed?

The Killer Shoe
The Killer Shoe

 

I would have to say yes.  Why?  Because I did it.

Here is the lowdown:

I had annoying nerve pain in my feet for years during a time where my average glucose was 200-300.  Then I spent several months working especially hard to maintain normalized blood sugar.  During those 6 months or so I felt the nerve pain worsen dramatically.  I felt it was too late, the damage had been done and now was worse than ever.

I wondered how I would live with the constant pain.

Then the pain disappeared.  That was years ago.  The pain has never returned.  Ok it did but only for a week after 7 straight hours of walking and dancing about at my wedding in 5 inch-high-too-narrow-for-my-feet stilettos (that’s what I get for such nonsense).  Other than that, nothing, nada, zilch.  I’m pain free.

I have since researched to find out what happened in my case.  I discovered that nerve damage which has not gone on too long or too far can be reversed.  Nerves are alive and can heal themselves if the body gives itself the chance.  I had terrible glucose for 10 years and in one year of good glucose control my pain was completely gone!

What does this mean for you?  HOPE.  Hope that you can at the very least lessen your nerve pain.  Don’t kick yourself any longer over your bad diabetes control.  Just begin to make steady changes towards better control, never giving up until you wake up and find you almost always have great glucose numbers (like me).

Reversing damage is not something most doctors will talk to you about, only managing the pain with medications.  You deserve better than painkillers, you deserve to feel like you aren’t a diabetic!

Give it a shot and let me know what happens…and remember, if you begin to improve your sugar averages and feel more nerve pain-don’t be alarmed.  This is a sign your nerves are healing themselves.  It won’t last too long, I promise.

Good luck!

Update-August 17th, 2011

This is a highly read post so I wanted to update everyone on how I’m doing two years after writing this post.  I feel the same.  My A1c has stayed below 6% during the last two years.  Once or twice in the past 2 years I’ve hit 400 and when I do, I feel a bit of tingling in my left toe.  Then once I’m back down the tingling is gone.  So…hanging in there and feeling good.  I wish you all the best.  Damage may be far gone in some people but I don’t think it’s ever too late to simply…try.  Maybe some damage will reverse itself…maybe not.  But what if?…

Diabetic women and the dreaded monthly visitor

 

Did you know many diabetic women have an especially rough time with their menstrual period each month?

Why is this?

Perhaps part of this is due to elevated glucose inducing more moodiness than is already present.

There is another reason.  Elevated glucose throws the body out of balance.  When this happens, every single part of the body suffers to a certain extent.  This means that a women’s hormones and therefore her reproductive system is also affected.  Women with diabetes are supposedly more apt to develop PCOS, for example.

Here then, is yet another reason to strive for blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible.

Often, diabetic women find that when they stabilize their glucose their periods are less intense and painful and more regular.  I personally found that having good blood sugar management did enormously help to alleviate my symptoms and my PCOS.  A few additional things really helped as well:

1.  Take healthy Omega fats

I take krill oil capsules every day.  Krill is another word for plankton-which yes, is what whales eat.  It works just like fish oil only better because it goes rancid less quickly and has way more antioxidants.  Fish oil is still a great option though and which ever you take-promotes body balance and alleviates period symptoms.

2.  Evening primrose oil

You can get this at GNC, it is especially helpful in easing rough period symptoms.

3.  Low carb and low sugar

A diet that is not high in sugar/carbs is the number one successful change I implemented when trying to get rid of my extremely painful cramps (the kind that forced me to call in sick one day each month and literally scream from pain for several hours).  If this sounds like you, I highly recommend trying this dietary change.  I mean it’s worth a try?

4.   Exercise

You’ve heard this one and it is true.  Exercise also helps ease menstrual symptoms.  It helps combat the bloated feeling too-which is so nice on an “I feel fat” day.

5.  Omit soft drinks, caffeine, and alcohol around the time of your period. 

This is common advice for a reason-it works!

 

Does anyone have anything to add to the list?