If you’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for a while now, you undoubtedly know when something’s wrong. After more than 20 years, I’ve learned to tell the difference between almost every symptom I feel and what it could be saying about my blood sugar.
It’s an important skill to develop and, unfortunately, that’s hard to do until you experience the highs and lows firsthand. But if you or a loved one have just been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, educating yourself on the symptoms of high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) are the first steps you can take to maintain good health and prevent potentially serious hospital visits.
Despite thinking my long experience with this disease has taught me all there is to know about it, the truth is, that couldn’t be less accurate! The only way to truly know how your blood levels are doing is to check your blood sugar consistently. This way, you can track changes and correlate to them to how you're feeling or correct them before the symptoms begin to appear at all.
Highs can lead to irritability, headaches, extreme thirst, nausea and more, while lows can lead to faintness, cold sweats, shakes or tremors, confusion and more. All of these symptoms can be frightening when they appear seemingly out of nowhere. Experiencing these highs and lows can leave you feeling helpless, especially when you are just diagnosed. But this is why knowing and understanding how your body responds to elevated or lowered blood sugar levels is not only important for your health, but empowering to your mind and spirit. You know exactly what’s happening and you know exactly how to fix it.
Memorize this list of symptoms from the American Diabetes Association. Recognizing one or more of these while they're happening can help you stay well and safe during an episode of high or low blood sugar.
Low Blood Sugar, or Hypoglycemia:
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Sweating, chills and clamminess
- Irritability or impatience
- Confusion, including delirium
- Rapid/fast heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Hunger and nausea
- Blurred/impaired vision
- Tingling or numbness in the lips or tongue
- Weakness or fatigue
- Anger, stubbornness, or sadness
- Lack of coordination
- Nightmares or crying out during sleep
High Blood Sugar, or Hyperglycemia:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Blurred vision
Be sure to talk with your doctor about how often you should be checking your blood sugar and how to best treat and control highs and lows. Dealing with this is a reality for diabetes sufferers – symptoms appear and they appear fast, so knowing what they are can help save you from further complications.