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February 20, 2002

Blood Tests and Insulin Injections, Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Arlington, Texas, USA:

I am 13 years old, was told I have diabetes about four months ago, and no one in my family has diabetes but they do have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). My cousin asked me to check her blood sugar, and the meter read, "HI". (It goes to 650 mg/dl [36.1 mmol/L]). Three hours later, it said the same thing, and this has happened with everyone in my family. Could they have diabetes?

Answer:

To begin with, I am assuming that you really do have diabetes and that you are on insulin and have a positive antibody test. If this is the case, you should know that it is the exception rather than the rule to have a family history of diabetes. This is partly a matter of the pattern of genetic inheritance because the appearance of actual clinical diabetes is also dependent on exposure to some as yet unknown environmental factors.

As to the blood sugar levels in your cousin and in all the other members of the family, I am sure that this is due to some major technical error and that they do not have diabetes. The quickest way to resolve this problem is to talk to the nurse educator on your diabetes care team to check what you are doing, and if necessary, to arrange for one of the supposed high blood sugar relatives to get a proper fasting blood sugar in the doctor’s office or in the clinical laboratory.

DOB