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January 25, 2003

Hypoglycemia

Question from Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA:

I am almost 16 years old, I'm not overweight (I'm 5 feet 5 inches tall; 110 pounds), my mother has type 2 diabetes, my father is "borderline", and I know I have a chance of getting diabetes since my parents have it. Over the last couple of weeks, I have had a lot of symptoms of diabetes (extreme thirst, increased eating, frequent urination, and I've lost "a little" weight over a few months). I drink everything in sight, and while I drink and drink, I'm always still thirsty. If I can't get a drink when I need one, I get really dizzy and shaky. My doctor checked me out, ran blood tests and a urine test, and he said I do have not diabetes. But I check my own sugar levels at home, they are very low. One day it was 48 mg/dl [2.7 mmol/L] even though I ate awhile before that, and one day I passed out when my sugar went down to 21 mg/dl [1.2 mmol/L], but I had a cup of orange juice and it went back up to normal. What should I do? I wanted to get a glucose tolerance test, but my doctor said I don't need it. Please help me!

Answer:

You certainly may be a higher risk of developing diabetes mellitus, but based on what you have written, you do not have diabetes now. In fact, your glucose readings are rather low (that is the opposite of diabetes).

There are several possibilities, most not really worrisome and are often treated with eating several small meals a day rather than infrequent large meals or skipping meals. A diet change with less “simple sugars” (soda, juice, Gatorade, frosted cereals, etc.) and more complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes, starches) may be more beneficial to you now.

The nuances of glucose monitoring may be important here, especially in terms of proper technique. So I would not suggest more dramatic changes (other than perhaps simple dietary changes as noted) without discussion with your regular physician.

I agree that a glucose tolerance test would likely not change things at present. Please talk with your doctor.

DS

[Editor’s comment: By the way, there’s no such thing as “borderline” diabetes. You and your parents should see the Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes Guidelines.

SS]