Last week I spoke about WHY, I ride. But I am going to go further here. The crux of having type-1 diabetes is that because it is an “invisible” illness people do not understand it, or fall prey to the various stereotypes that are out there, when they think about diabetes. That being said, one of the biggest differences between people who have type-1 diabetes and type-2 diabetes is the use of insulin. Mind you, this is not always the case, there are people with type-2 diabetes who use insulin in some capacity, but that isn’t usually or always the case. Those who have type-1 diabetes have no way to regulate their blood glucose. This is where insulin comes into play.
Let me start by again reiterating insulin is not a cure. People with type-1 do not take one shot a day and all is solved and right with the world. No, insulin allows the body to process the glucose from the foods I eat. “Insulin stimulates the cells of the body to absorb sugar (glucose) out of the blood. It also inhibits the production of glucose by the liver.” Thank you Yahoo Answers! Yet if I take too much or too little of that magical drug there is the chance of either Hypo or Hyperglycemia.
I’m going to try to explain what Hypoglycemia is. Which is fun in and of itself. I’ll get to why in a second. When Hypoglycemia occurs, it means that ones blood glucose has dropped below what is “normal”. Most people with fully functioning pancreases maintain their glucose levels in the 80 – 120 range, roughly. If your blood glucose levels are below 70 or so, you can be at risk of hypoglycemia. Someone was trying to tell me, really that 70 -56 is just considered low, and that hypoglycemia is when you are below 55. But we are not arguing that right now.
Project Blue November had a pretty picture on the signs and symptom of hypoglycemia. I figured it was time to put a picture in to break up the writing.
The thing is, the symptoms that are listed are not necessarily what every person feels or more so, more likely they have some of the symptoms, just not all of them. I thought I would try to explain from my perspective what Hypoglycemia feels like. The issue though, is that I do not necessarily feel any or all of those symptoms. Hunger, no at least not that I would recognize as a symptom, until I try to treat a low and eat my entire fridge, and I mean both the food and the fridge. Anxiety, no. Nauseous, no. Irritable, sometimes, but sometimes I am just cranky. Dizziness, not really. Fatigue, yes, but I am always tired on some level. Shakiness, trace hand shakes, not like I used to have. Confusion, not so much. I am more deliberate in my thought process, but not seriously confused. Sweating, I used to.
The thing is, the longer you have Type-1 the more you have a possibility of missing those signs and symptoms of a low or just no longer experiencing them. I can remember when I was first diagnosed, I would experience the sweats, the shakiness, and irritability. Now, not so much. This is not me bragging, it scares the crap out of me. I am more or less fully able to function when I have been in the 20’s. I have texted friends and talked with them, while I was trying to decide on what I should eat. Do I drink the OJ or the V8 fruit as it’s healthier? Instead of chugging it. I ask them to check in on me, just in case something happens, but thankfully it doesn’t.
The one symptom, I have and it’s hard to put into words that tells me I am low is a “feeling” I get. I almost compare it to when you are driving and you go over that hill and you get that drop feeling or if you are standing and looking over a ledge on a really tall building. You know that feeling?! It’s a similar feeling, but not that sense of excitement. It’s there, but you don’t enjoy it. But at least when I feel that feeling I know that something isn’t right.
Hypoglycemia is no joking matter, if someone has a hypoglycemic reaction and people are not aware of the symptoms or what is happening, the person could die. Some people will say that a person who is having a reaction could be seen as being drunk. Especially if they are confused, stumbling, and slurring their speech. The reality is that too much insulin with an untreated low will most likely result in death.
Hypoglycemia is not a joking matter. It scares the crap out of me. The life experiences that I have had and the fact that I am still functioning on this planet is a blessing in and of itself. I will say it again. Insulin is not a cure. It is a means to life, but just a hint too much and I am no longer around.
This is why I ride. I want to live a long life, I think. But I would like it to be one where hypoglycemia is a story of the past. I want the stupid stories I tell to start out with, well I was hanging out with my friend …. and this happened. Not, well I was low and this happened.
Type-1 diabetes is a chronic condition with no cure. It has lasting repercussions on the life those who live with the disease, but also on the lives of those who are caregivers or care for the person with Type-1. If you read this and want to, consider supporting why I ride.
Oh you’re still here. You read it to the end. Are you the monster at the end of the webpage? No! Ok, here’s one.
As a person with T1 for 43 years, I can attest that I also have hypoglycemia unawareness. It can be awful. The good news is CGM technology. Of course, it is not perfect but it is better than many of us have had for many years.