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August 6, 2002

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Portsmouth, United Kingdom:

About a year ago I was called back to the doctors to have a repeat blood test as my blood sugar level on a full blood workup was 7.8 [mmol/L, 140 mg/dl]. Repeat testing was normal and random tests on my best friend's meter have all been normal. However, over the last few weeks, I have been so tired, have no energy, ache all over, and some nights I was having night sweats. Those nights, I had a headache and felt drowsy upon wakening. My skin is dry and itchy. My feet are cut up from some new shoes, and they have not healed in over a month. A few weeks back I suddenly gained 8 pounds, and, in the last week, I have lost two of those. In addition, I was very thirsty and going to the bathroom all the time, but this has calmed down now and I feel okay again, just very tired. Is it possible for these symptoms to be blood sugar related? Is it possible for symptoms to wax and wane if the pancreas is slowly failing? Is it worth asking for a glucose tolerance test?


Symptoms are difficult to use when making a diagnosis of a condition like diabetes. There are many nonspecific symptoms associated with it. However, the frequent urination is one to consider as being more specific. In other words, there are some symptoms you hang your hat on more heavily than others. As far as your blood sugar of 7.8 mmol/L [140 mg/dl], if this was not fasting, this may not be abnormal.

I would address these symptoms again with your physician. A fasting blood sugar is easy to perform. I would not live with any indecision about this.


[Editor’s comment: See symptoms of diabetes and Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes Guidelines.