I am a diabetes expert. No I’m not a doctor or a nurse. I am a mom. A mom to a 13 year old girl named Ashley who has Juvenile Diabetes. Ashley was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes just before her fifth birthday. She went into a diabetic coma and almost died. None of that would have happened if I had known the warning signs. In this article I am going to give you some information on diabetes and the warning signs.
There are two types of Diabetes. Type I - Juvenile Diabetes and Type II - Adult Onset Diabetes. Here we are going to concentrate on Type I.
With Type I , which mainly occurs in young people, the pancreas produces very little or no insulin. This disease is now being classed as an Auto-immune disease. This is what can happen. A person becomes ill with a flu-like virus. Normally the white blood cells would attack these invading organisms and the person would begin to get better. But, in a person prone to diabetes the white blood cells become confused and attack the beta cells in the pancreas. To better understand this let me explain what the pancreas does. The pancreas is a gland positioned behind the stomach. It has two major functions. The first is to produce enzymes that help to digest food. The second is to produce the hormones insulin and glucagon. These two hormones are important because they play a major part in regulating the glucose (sugar) level in your blood by keeping it at an even or normal level. When your pancreas becomes damaged it is unable to manufacture insulin. Insulin helps your beta cells absorb sugar. Your body needs the sugar to produce energy. Your body, unable to use glucose because of the lack of insulin, is forced to obtain energy from fat instead. This is very dangerous and if not treated eventually leads to a coma.
If you are aware of them the warning signs are very easy to see. The warning signs of Juvenile Diabetes are: irritability, frequent urination which is associated with abnormal thirst, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, weight loss despite a normal (or even increased) intake of food, and unusual hunger. Something usually not mentioned but, which happened with my daughter was nightmares & sleep walking. In children, frequent bedwetting - especially by a child who never previously wet the bed - is another common sign. Just before going into a coma you will notice breath that smells like acetone (ex:fingernail polish remover). This is a sign of ketoacidosis. You should get this person to the hospital immediately.
People with Type I Diabetes are subject to episodes in which blood glucose levels are very high (hyperglycemia) and very low (hypoglycemia). Either of these conditions can lead to a serious medical emergency. To better understand this you should know that a normal blood glucose level is between 70 - 120. When my daughter went into a diabetic coma her level was over 1,000. She has been as low as 19. This is very scary. This is what I notice when Ashley becomes low. You look into her eyes and she looks far away. Her eyes are glassy and vacant looking. She becomes confused, disoriented and sometimes combative. Her speech is slow and often slurred. Her hand will tremble and she says she feels shaky. Sometimes Ashley does not recall these episodes.
Episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) which strikes suddenly, can be caused by a missed meal, too much excersize, or a reaction to too much insulin. The initial signs are hunger, dizziness, sweating, confusion, palpitations, and numbness or tingling of the lips. If not treated the individual may go on to experience double vision, trembling and disorientation; they may act strangely and may even lapse into a coma.
In contrast, a hyperglycemic (high blood glucose) episode can come on over a period of several hours or even weeks. The risk of hyperglycemia is greatest during illness. When insulin requirements rise; blood sugar can creep, ultimately resulting in a coma, a reaction also known as diabetic ketoacidosis. One of the warning signs of developing hyperglycemia is the inability to keep down fluids. Possible long term complications include stroke, blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, gangrene, and nerve damage.
So you see I am a diabetes expert. It was important for me to know my enemy. My enemy is diabetes and with education I can fight it.