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November 6, 2002

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Chicago, Illinois, USA:

My 51 year old sister just called me and said saying the doctors think she has diabetes because today she had a blood sugar of 300 mg/dl [16.7 mmol/L]. She has been thirsty, having yeast infections, been very tired for about a week or two. She is very thin (and in fact has lost 5 pounds since she's been "sick") and eats a very low fat, low sugar diet. she has had two children but never had any gestational diabetes. Our father, aged 82, has type 2 diabetes. What kind of diabetes could she have? Isn't she too old for type 1? Aren't the symptoms more intense than type 2? Could it possibly be something else, like a tumor?

Answer:

Your sister most likely has type�2 diabetes. I think it is not correct to think of type 2 diabetes as the less severe than type�1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common and is the cause for the majority of people who experience complications from their diabetes.

In your sister’s case, it sounds as though she is experiencing symptoms of hyperglycemia. These symptoms will continue until the blood sugars are lowered. Sometimes, it is best to use a potent drug like insulin to rapidly lower the blood sugars. Only later will it be appropriate to start the oral agent and discontinue the insulin. Your sister needs to work closely with her physician to work through this.

JTL