Type 1 diabetes is unpredictable. I could eat the exact same meals at the exact same times everyday and yet my blood sugar will probably react differently every single time. For instance, on a family night out to the movies, I bought some popcorn and ended up having it all to myself because no one wanted any. I bolused (gave myself insulin for the food I was about to eat) and ate so much popcorn that it made my stomach hurt. My blood sugar? Started to drop and was somewhere around 68. I had to steal my mom's Sprite to try and regulate it.
Now, on another family movie night, I bought a large popcorn that I shared with 3 other people. My blood sugar after a handful? In the freakin’ 300’s! Could it have had something to do with the movie being a thriller rather than a comedy? Yes. Could it have been that I was stressed out that day? Yes. Maybe I underestimated the amount of insulin I needed for a previous meal? Yes. Maybe I was about to get my period which causes my numbers to skyrocket? Yes. And so many more yeses to a million other things.
Hypoglycemia, also just called low blood sugars, or lows, happen when the blood sugar (glucose) level falls too low and is below the normal range of 70 mg/dL.
Common symptoms of a low blood sugar include:
When I experience a low, I try to eat something immediately and try to sit down for a bit. I always carry around glucose tablets and some sort of snack (see Diabetes Supplies & Essentials section below) in case of an unexpected low during the day. Sometimes it happens in the middle of the night, which can be scary. Thankfully my CGM (continuous glucose monitor) and insulin pump alert me when my blood sugars are fluctuating out of range.
I also prefer not to be alone when suffering through a low in case my blood sugar continues to drop and I need emergency help. It's also nice to just have someone there to stab the straw into the juice box for you.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people without diabetes are less likely to experience hypoglycemia. But when they do, the probable causes include medications, excessive alcohol consumption, hormone deficiencies, insulin overproduction (meaning the pancreas is making too much insulin), or another critical illness.
In the case of those with diabetes, “too much insulin or other diabetes medications may cause your blood sugar level to drop too low, causing hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia may also happen if you don't eat as much food as usual after taking diabetes medication, or if you exercise more than you normally would.”
Although that pretty much sums it up, I would say that it’s also important to mention that medication, food, and activity level are not the only things that affect a diabetic's blood sugar (keep reading to see what I mean).
As for Hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugars, or highs, happen when the blood sugar is above the normal range which is about 140 mg/dL.
Extreme weight loss
Highs are almost undetectable if they happen only occasionally. Before I was diagnosed and my numbers were just all over the place, I felt terrible all the time. Now that I'm more aware of my diabetes, I can definitely tell when my blood sugar is higher than normal. Most of the time, high blood sugars happen to me because I forget to give myself insulin for food. Even though I've been on insulin for 5+ years, I'm still kind of a newbie to all of this.
As stated on the Mayo Clinic's website, hyperglycemia happens when "your pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or because your body is resistant to the effects of insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level (type 2 diabetes). As a result, glucose tends to build up in your bloodstream (hyperglycemia) and may reach dangerously high levels if not treated properly."
Now, I mentioned earlier that diet, medication and activity level are just a few of the reasons why a diabetic's blood sugar will go up and down. That's because almost any type of stress, emotional, mental, or physical, can cause hypo-or-hyperglycemia.
Basically, anything and everything can have an effect on a diabetic's blood sugar. That's why I personally think that it's much more complicated for a Type 1 to control their numbers than it is for a Type 2.
Regardless, being vigilant and having a supportive & knowledgeable medical team is a huge step in the right direction. If you feel that you are experiencing too many highs and lows as a diabetic, be sure to talk about it with a medical professional.
If you are not diabetic, but are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible.
Diabetes Supplies & Essentials
If you look up "type 1 diabetes memes" online, sure enough, you'll probably see pictures making fun of the fact that Type 1's carry everything but the kitchen sink when they go out into the world everyday.
Beyond Type 1 has an awesome post detailing some of the basic essentials that every type 1 warrior should have access to at all times. These items include:
Blood glucose meter - to poke your finger & check your blood sugar
Insulin - to dose according to your doctor's prescription
Cooler (like a FRIO pouch - these are awesome!) - great when traveling or when you'll be away from home for an extended period of time and need to store insulin
Syringes or pen needles - if you inject insulin & don't pump, you'll definitely need these (even if you have a pump, you want to have an insulin vial and syringe or insulin pen handy)
Alcohol swabs - to clean before poking your finger or changing a pump site
Bandaids/medical tape - for when those pesky pokes just keep bleeding
Lancing device with lancet - to extract blood to give to your glucose meter to read your current blood sugar
Containers - to dispose of used needles, test strips, etc
Test strips - to insert into the glucose meter. You then put blood on this to get a reading
Ketone testing products - when your blood sugar has been high for an extended period of time or you're experiencing hyperglycemia symptoms, you can test for ketones (a type of acid made in the liver that goes into your bloodstream. Your body produces ketones when it doesn't have enough insulin to break down sugars in your body. Having too many ketones can be life threatening and can cause Diabetic Ketoacidosis. I'll talk about this more in a another post.)
Fast-acting carbohydrate - If you ever go low, you want to consume at least 15 grams of carbs to try and regulate your blood sugar (I always carry glucose tablets or a granola bar.)
Glucagon emergency kit - In cases of an extreme low blood sugar where the person becomes unconscious or incapacitated, this emergency kit, similar to an Epipen, can be injected to try and help the person stay afloat until emergency medical services arrive
Medical ID - You want to have some sort of ID in case of an unfortunate event that you become unconscious or are in need of help, a good Samaritan or emergency medical services can know that you have specific needs as a type 1 diabetic (I found found a really pretty bracelet on Etsy a few years ago, so you don't have to settle for something generic and boring. Some people even have tattoos that count as their medical ID.)
Medical details - It's also important to have a list of medications, allergies, and emergency contacts (I actually have this info on my medical ID bracelet.)
These are definitely not all the supplies that we carry, but are pretty much the essentials. Basically if we have insulin and a way to administer it, as well as an emergency snack, then we're good to go!
I also wanted to share a few of the awesome type 1 products that have improved my management or are just adorable!
Myabetic - handbags, totes, backpacks, cases, and more that are just as stylish as you! I have a Myabetic bag that I absolutely love! I took it with me on my recent trip to Seattle and it was great because I could be out all day but not worry about not having what I needed because it all fit perfectly and safely in my Myabetic bag!
Pump Peelz - Add some interest to the devices you use multiple times a day. I love Pump Peelz because they make my pump look cool and it sometimes opens up a conversation between me and someone who thinks the pattern on my iPod looks cool. (Also, yes, my pump looks like an iPod because Medtronic was inspired by it's design).
Pretty Simple - these products make great gifts for not just Type 1's, but anyone special in your life. Their Cure mittens are especially adorable because they are fun & colorful, and proceeds of their sales go to JDRF!
Shop the Drop - Shop some fun Type 1 related products on Shop the Drop! I think the most awesome product on here has to be Jerry the Bear because it's a huge support for Type 1 kids. Heck I want one for myself! There are also other fun items to show off your Type 1 with pride! And all proceeds from this shop benefit Beyond Type 1!
Glitter Glucose - My favorite Type 1 influencer has an online store with the prettiest tees and products to show off your diabetic awesomeness! Check out her store (and also, if you're thinking of getting me a X-Mas or birthday gift, anything from here will do!).
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I’m not a medical professional so I would only be able to provide my point of view and experiences. For resources or to learn more about the topics I covered in this post, please visit the following pages:
And remember, you can always reach out to me to chat, ask questions, or if you just need a friend to add to your support team!
Thanks for reading!
-The B of V