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February 4, 2003


Question from Limerick, Ireland:

I have had type 1 diabetes for seven years and so far haven't experienced any real problems. However, last weekend I went out as usual and when I got home I set my alarm clock to wake me up. The following morning my alarm clock did go off, I got out of bed to make some breakfast, and that's the last I remember. According to my flatmate, I made myself toast but didn't eat it. Also, at some point during that time, I fell over (the noise of which is what woke my flatmate) leaving me badly bruised on my head, arms and body, but I managed to make it back to my bed. My flatmate then made me fresh toast which she brought into me and I ate, but I have absolutely no memory of this at all. Not only that, I don't have any real memories of the night before and the whole day went as a blur. All I did was sleep, and I remember I had terrible headaches. My body also felt very stiff as though I had had a fit. This has only happened to me once before, and I did fit the last time, but both times nothing in my routine had changed. No illnesses and I ate the same way I always do. I'm confident the fitting is a result of hypoglycemia but I would like to know why it happened the way it did.


These fits are a signal that you need to look into trying to prevent them. First, I wonder if you have been having hypoglycemia all the time that is not recognized. This is screened by checking your sugar at 3:00 am and making sure the sugar stays up. The more lows at night, the more likely you may have a serious reaction.

Second, you may have serious lows as a result of alcohol intake, extreme physical activity, decreased food intake, an insulin error, or other unrecognized problems. The fact that you are not aware of some of your actions is not unusual. Some of my patients indicate strange behaviors. One such story concerns a man who got in his car, drove a number of miles from home, and didn’t realize where he was until he was over one hundred miles from his point of origin. Another common scenario is that individuals with serious lows get combative and difficult to reason with. At this point, the brain has run out of fuel to power itself and the behaviors represent the brain not functioning normally. As you can see, the consequences could be serious. I suggest you contact your physician and let them know you are having these symptoms.