Monday, August 28, 2006

Strange Symptom

In the twenty-four years that I've been a diabetic, I've learned a thing or two. Or three. And one thing that still amazes me is that there is always something new.

I love to preach about being aware of your symptoms. Pay attention to the signals your body gives you, because even the slightest thing could mean something.

And so, I think I've learned another. A strange symptom that I've never heard listed in any "high blood sugar" symptom list, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced of in myself.

But before I tell you what that strange symptom is, I'll tell you what isn't a strange symptom. At least, not for me. When my blood sugar is high, I get one or more of the following: frequent urination, extreme thirst, excessive coughing, feeling sluggish or depressed, restlessness in my sleep, or a sticky taste in my mouth. Oh, I'm probably missing some others.

If I notice any of these, symptoms, it is a sign to test my blood.

But I've become aware of a pattern. See, I frequently wake up in the middle of the night with an extremely painful and/or stiff back. Sometimes it is so bad, I have to take some ibuprofen. Now, admittedly, we don't have the best mattress in the world, so naturally I've been blaming this on my bed.

But the thing is, if it were just the bed, why is it sporadic. Shouldn't I have back stiffness and pain every night?

Then recently I began to notice that my back is worse the higher my blood sugar is. So, I've been explicitly paying attention, and sure enough, pain in the back equal a high BGL.

There you have it. Another strange symptom. To test this, one night last week I was having trouble sleeping due to my back. So, I pumped out a couple units of insulin. I didn't even bother testing. (Not recommended, by the way, if you aren't keenly aware of your lows when you sleep. Fortunately, I am.) Guess what? My back stopped least, enough to sleep.

So, I'll urge you all (at least, those with diabetes), yet again, to be mindful of what your body is trying to tell you. Don't dismiss anything. It might be nothing. But look for patterns. Look for any and all means you have for judging your BGLs based on how you feel. The more symptoms you are aware of, the better care you can take of yourself.

I've got a little secret to share. And don't tell my endo, please. But my last A1c was a 7.0. Okay, my endo knows that part. But what my endo doesn't know is that I achieved that by testing my BGLs no more than once a day. I'm bad, I know. I should more often. So should you. But I was lazy, and the battery died on my meter, and I was trying to save money on strips. Amazingly, I was able to keep my A1c at the 7.0 level, however, almost entirely through being self-aware of my symptoms.

Now that I shared that secret, however, let me tell you that going very long without frequent testing does jeopardize your ability to accurately judge your BGLs. So, this three-month test is over, and I'm back to more frequent checks. Yet, it goes to show how much your "Spidey-sense" can help you keep good control. Of course, I still look forward to the day that I can afford the new Minimed Paradigm Real (or whatever it is called) that continuously monitors your BGLs for you, if only because it is cool!


Kassie said...

my back hurts when I'm sleeping high too!

Minnesota Nice said...

This appears to be somewhat timely advice for me.
The week following my dr appt I always have a "free ride" and eat whatever I want, usually running pretty high for about 4-6 days.
For the past 2 years I've had bi-lateral frozen shoulders, also called "adhesive capsulitis" - very common in diabetics. Well, guess what flared up the last couple of nights? I had blamed it on being a little too aggressive with my rehab exercises, but the high bg may definitely be a contributor.
I'm going to give it some "calm observation". I have a tendency to become preoccupied with symptoms so will try to remain logical and rational.
You are VERY LUCKY to have such a consistent physiology that lets you maintain a good A1C without a lot of testing.
Thanks for the helpful points.

Lexie Ward said...

Do you think the stiff back can be coming from kidney distress (which could be attributed to the high glucose)? I don't check my blood sugar, but anytime I haven't been drinking enough fluids, I have the exact symptoms in my back that you've described.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Dude, your spidey-sense is amazing...

RyanBruner said...


Not in this case. Wrong place in my back, for one. Also, it happened even for a BGL that isn't exceptionally high. Nothing that should be causing kidney problems. It is more upper, middle, I'd say.

Pharmamedics said...

It's important to sleep not high in order to avoid hurt.

Lexie Ward said...

Ryan, I'm glad! When I have those kidney pains they usually preclude stones, which are like a revisitation of childbirth (only on just one side of the body). UGH!