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May 30, 2003

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Question from Kingsbur, California, USA:

I have had type 1 diabetes for 37 years, and recently, I have been experiencing numbness in my hands. At first, I thought it was just sleeping on them during the night and cutting off circulation, but as it continued, I got worried it could have something to do with my diabetes and circulation. However, they were not numb upon rising; usually 30-45 minutes afterwards, and they alternated between right and left hand, and it was never consistent. I started tracking and recording when this occurred. Sometimes it happened in the morning; sometimes in the afternoon, but there never any consistency except I started noticing that whenever my blood sugar dropped, my hand or hands got numb! I had never heard of this symptom for hypoglycemia before! Sometimes low blood sugars produce this result; other times not. Since I have been tracking it, it does seem to be a precursor to a low blood sugar about 80% of the time. In fact, if I do feel the numbness, I can almost bet a low blood sugar is coming on. This is different than the "tingling" feeling I sometimes get with a drop in blood sugars, and is something quite new. It's really strange that it is happening all of a sudden during the past year or so. Is this a documented symptom of hypoglycemia or something rare/unique? Have other people with diabetes reported such a symptom?

Answer:

From my clinical experience, this is not a common symptom of hypoglycemia. However, when low sugars occur, the nerves may not have enough glucose around to allow for a source of energy.

However, in addition to diabetes-related neuropathy, you need to consider whether this is also related to carpal tunnel syndrome which is associated with diabetes and gets worse with repetitive activities.

JTL