I am finding what people feel when they are low varies quite a bit. I’m sure that makes it difficult to nail down what being low actually looks like. This summer I get the opportunity to work as medical staff at the Colorado ADA Diabetes Camp in Eagle Lake, Colorado. I will be working with T1D kids all ages and am responsible, in part, for their health. I am very excited for this opportunity, but one of my concerns is exactly that, lows look different on everybody. Even me.
Over last summer I was talking to my diabetic friend as we both sat in outside the staff dorms at camp. We were comparing notes on feeling low, being low, and general diabetic, girly stuff. She’s unique in that when she is low, she functions quite normally, she might feel a bit funky, but generally she is not physically affected. She knows what she feels like when she’s low so she corrects quite efficiently, however, that’s when the signs and symptoms kick in. Not until her blood sugar is returning to normal does she feel the full weight of being low, sweating, shaking, mild confusion, etc. (Honey, I know this is a gross generalization, so I apologize)
How funny! How interesting…
According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia (hypo = low, glycemia = blood glucose) are as follows:
- Confusion, abnormal behavior or both, such as the inability to complete routine tasks <— Um, yep
- Visual disturbances, such as double vision and blurred vision <— Have not experienced this…
- Seizures, though uncommon <— Only in extreme cases
- Loss of consciousness, though uncommon <— Again, extreme
Hypoglycemia may also cause these other signs and symptoms:
- Heart palpitations <— Your heart rate will also increase when you are low, which can lead to increased respirations and general feeling of weakness
- Shakiness <— Because your muscles are the first to go
- Anxiety <— Too true. Although this is the first time I’ve seen it listed among the S&S
- Sweating <— Generally what most parents are told to look for
- Hunger <— Can generally be described as the munchies. Our brains know they need food and respond accordingly
- Tingling sensation around the mouth <— Uh? Okay, if you say so Mr. Mayo
Now these are the S&S for specifically a condition called Hypoglycemia, which can be caused by myriad of non-diabetes issues, including insulin overproduction. But when the glucose in blood falls, it causes the same problems regardless of etiology.
This list is actually quite good, but looking at it you can imagine the problems people run into. This could also be a list of the feelings after you exercise, or are drunk, or a host of other circumstances. This makes me nervous when considering that one day someone might have to determine whether or not I’m low — maybe some pointers will help.
My low S&S run pretty close to that with a couple of differences.
- I don’t sweat during the day. At night I will wake up hot and sticky, but I don’t notice it at all during the day.
- My family will tell you I’m a mean low (in the phraseology of a “mean drunk”), I don’t consider myself a mean low, but I could be wrong. I do tend to get short with people; my tolerance for people who get on my nerves runs about zero.
- I think that stems from my anxiety which skyrockets when I’m low. I mean everything is wrong, my school, my life, my worth, etc. It all sucks when I’m low.
- Mentally, I find my awareness distancing itself from the moment. I still hear and see everything fine, and I’m aware of the actual words being said, but my processing of their meaning and implications slows quite a bit. I can still mentally process how to do things easily but it requires more focus to translate that action. It really is a feeling of distance. I don’t watch myself or anything weird like that, but I am just distant.
- I don’t shake. I used to, but not anymore.
- It’s really hard to concentrate on words, especially written words — almost like dyslexia but without the word movement. That is really stinky when all you want to do is a read a book and your blood sugar has other plans.
- My personality changes in that I become more honest (that’s fun), a little more punchy, more emotional, quieter, and more biddable in certain circumstances.
In general, feeling low is not fun, but considering all the people I’ve heard about who are asymptomatic (don’t have symptoms) low, I’m very grateful for my feelings.
If you’re interested in a Diabetes Camp near you, go to this website, American Diabetes Association Diabetes Camp, and look one up!