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August 23, 2001

Community Resources, Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Powhatan, Virginia, USA:

I am 28 years old, 5 feet tall, weigh 220 pounds, and I have been experiencing spells during which I feel lightheaded first, then I'll break out into an awful sweat (we are talking about sweat running down the back of my knees and through my scalp), then I'll feel all shaky, and I just know if I take another step it's the end of the line for me. I try to locate some type of food (with sugar) to eat. I used to be able to eat a piece of candy and feel better, but now it takes several "snack cakes", and I'm extremely tired afterwards. I'm ready to go to bed after I have these. I also experience tingling and numbness in my fingers, sometimes to the point it hurts. Does this sound like diabetes or hypoglycemia? I have also been diagnosed with high blood pressure. I described these symptoms to my doctor who said it sounds like the beginning stages of diabetes, but he never tested me. I don't have a lot of money to get tested for this or that unless it is deemed medically necessary. What do you think?

Answer:

Your symptoms sound very similar to those of hypoglycemia but without testing a blood sugar, it’s hard to be sure. I would urge you to see your physician and be tested for diabetes. You may indeed be early into the disease which is the best time to take proactive steps to keep blood sugars, both before and after meals, close to target range. You could also benefit by acquiring a blood testing kit to check your blood sugar at home, both during those episodes you describe, and randomly before and one hour after meals to see what your blood sugars are doing day to day. You don’t mention if you have diabetes in the family, but this too would put you at higher risk.

KS

[Editor’s comment: Testing for diabetes usually consists of one or several blood sugar level tests, which should be fairly inexpensive. If you are truly indigent, check with your local American Diabetes Association office about screening programs, or the local county health nurse may be able to arrange a test at low cost.

WWQ]