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Diabetes Symptoms to Never Ignore

By Renee Bacher
WebMD Feature

One of the keys to leading a healthy life with diabetes is to keep your glucose levels, or blood sugar, in check. As your main source of energy, glucose plays a big role in keeping your body working like it should. If you have either type of diabetes, you need to be aware of symptoms that may mean your glucose is out of balance.

If your blood sugar is too low:

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Just a few years ago, it was rare to hear about a child with type 2 diabetes. It used to be thought that if diabetes occurred in childhood, it was type 1, or juvenile-onset, diabetes. Not anymore. Now, according to the CDC, more than 186,000 people younger than age 20 have diabetes -- both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes. How can you prevent this threat to your child's health? What can you do if your child is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?

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Symptom: Acting Drunk or Losing Consciousness

Your brain can be affected if your sugar level drops too low.

Low glucose can cause you to stagger, slur words, or even pass out.

What to do: It's smart to wear a medical bracelet or necklace that lets people know you have diabetes.

If your blood sugar gets too low, taking in about 15 to 20 grams of a simple carb may help. Some examples are a half a cup of orange juice, 2 tablespoons of raisins, or a tablespoon of sugar.  Glucose tablets and gel tubes are also available. Some people keep an injectable hormone called glucagon on hand and tell their friends how to give them the shot in case they faint or can’t swallow. Ask your doctor if keeping glucagon on hand is right for you.

If you still don't feel like yourself after drinking juice or getting a glucagon shot, call 911. If your blood sugar returns to your target range, eat a meal or snack to prevent it from dropping again.

Always let your doctor know if you had an episode of low blood sugar. Your treatment plan may have to be adjusted.

If your blood sugar is too high:

Symptom: Excessive Urination

It's normal to release as much as 84 ounces of urine a day -- that's about 2 liters. Since you probably don’t measure your urine output at home, you may have to figure out whether you're making too much of it.

What to do: “Waking at night to urinate and urinating larger amounts than usual can mean something is wrong,” says David Michael Erani, MD. He is an endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. People with an overactive bladder or men with an enlarged prostate may urinate frequently as well. But as long as the actual amount has not increased, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have uncontrolled glucose.

Symptom: Excessive thirst

Being thirstier than usual can be brought on by warm weather, salty foods, or an increase in your workout routine. But your thirst can also be brought on by too much urination.

What to do: Continue to drink when you're thirsty. If you're dehydrated, though, you may need medical care.

Thirst may mean “your body is signaling you to drink more,” says Fernando Ovalle, MD. He is director of the Diabetes & Endocrine Clinical Research Unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. Urinating and drinking more than a gallon a day is a signal that something is wrong.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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