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Type 1 Diabetes: Living With the Disease - Symptoms

Treating type 1 diabetes with insulin injections means you may have high and low blood sugar from time to time.

  • Symptoms of high blood sugar include increased thirst, increased urination, and blurred vision.
  • Symptoms of low blood sugar include sweating, weakness, and hunger. Severe low blood sugar may cause loss of consciousness and seizures.

High blood sugar usually develops slowly over hours or days, so you can take steps to correct it before your symptoms become severe and require medical attention. On the other hand, your blood sugar level can drop to dangerously low levels within 10 to 15 minutes of exercising or taking insulin without eating enough. You also can get low blood sugar if you have previously taken intermediate- or long-lasting insulin and skip a meal.

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Signs of complications

The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop complications. You are not likely to develop signs of complications from diabetes until you have had the disease for about 5 years. Still, you should watch for complications. Signs may include:

  • Burning pain, numbness, or swelling in your feet or hands. These symptoms may signal damage to the nerves that affect sensation and touch. This complication is called peripheral neuropathy. If one nerve is affected (focal neuropathy), you may have symptoms in one area of your body, such as double vision.
  • Blurred or distorted vision; seeing floaters, flashes of light, or large areas that look like floating hair, cotton fibers, or spiderwebs; or pain in your eyes. These symptoms may indicate diabetic retinopathy. You are also at risk for other eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts.
  • A wound that won't heal or that looks infected. This may mean you have damage to the blood vessels that supply that area. It also can happen because your body's white blood cells do not fight infection well when blood sugar is high.
  • Frequent bloating, belching, constipation, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These are signs of gastroparesis, or slow emptying of the stomach. It happens when the nerves that control your internal organs and systems are damaged (autonomic neuropathy).
  • A lot of sweating (especially after meals) or reduced sweating; feeling dizzy or weak when you sit or stand up suddenly; not being able to tell when your bladder is full or to empty your bladder completely; erection problems or vaginal dryness; or difficulty knowing when your blood sugar is low (hypoglycemia unawareness). These also may indicate autonomic neuropathy.

You will not have symptoms of kidney problems (diabetic nephropathy) until severe damage has developed. Then you may notice swelling in your feet, legs, and throughout your body. Having regular tests for protein in your urine is the only way to detect kidney damage before symptoms develop.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 01, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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If the level is below 70 and 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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