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August 6, 2002

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from San Jose, California, USA:

I am 40 years old, I am not overweight, I have a family history of diabetes, and I have been having symptoms of diabetes for several months (fatigue, weakness, dizziness, occasional blurred vision, occasional frequent urination). I already have a low fat diet and exercise regularly (weight training, running, swimming). It seems the absolute worst right before my menstrual cycle. I become extremely sleepy and week. Lately, I have not been able to follow my usual exercise routine due to weakness. I have a loss of appetite, some nausea, occasional buzzing feeling in my hands and arms. My fasting blood sugar was 87 mg/dl [4.8 mmol/L], and it so happened that the day I tested, I was feeling better than previously. I also have irritable bowel syndrome and suffer from hemorrhoids. I heard a lecture on stress related illnesses this week, and I seem to be suffering from stress. Yet, I do not meet the criteria since I have a happy (but sometimes stressful) home, a good husband, a job I enjoy (management position, some stress), I attend mass regularly and I have hobbies, etc. Yet, I feel these symptoms. Can the test I took be inaccurate? I am reluctant to go to my doctor because the test was negative, and she will think I am nuts. What is going on? What shall I do? What does a blood sugar of 87 mg/dl [4.8 mmol/L] mean?

Answer:

The likelihood you have diabetes is very low. Normal blood sugars are less than 115 mg/dl [6.4 mmol/L]. Diabetes is diagnosed when the fasting blood sugar exceeds 126 mg/dl [7 mmol/L] on two occasions. I would see if you can see a psychologist to find out if you really are having symptoms of a stress-related problem.

JTL