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January 11, 2001

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Moody, Maine, USA:

Our six year old daughter was diagnosed with a week ago. She had a yeast infection and her blood sugar was 674 mg/dl [37.4 mmol/L] at the hospital. We spent three days in the hospital with insulin and her levels came down. I just don't believe the result. When we got home from the hospital, she broke out with chicken pox. Can a virus cause the high sugar levels or should I go see another doctor to have her rechecked?

Answer:

Any illness or infection can make blood glucose readings high in someone with diabetes, as the insulin given can be less effective and sometimes more insulin than usual needs to be given. Occasionally, ketones can be produced, another sign suggesting more insulin is needed. She should be checked out by your diabetes team to make sure she is okay.

JS

[Editor’s comment: It appears to me that you may be questioning your daughter’s diagnosis. While it is true that illness will cause blood sugar to rise, it is highly unlikely that it would increase to the level your daughter had at the time of diagnosis. More probably, your daughter was developing full-blown type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes, and the stress on the islet cells, caused by the chicken pox, resulted in the diabetes becoming overt.

The autoimmune process leading to diabetes begins to occur a long time before actual symptoms develop. As long as there is no stress on the islet cells, blood sugars stay in a reasonable range. The stress of an illness, as Dr. Schulga describes, increases insulin requirements and resistance. So, in your daughter’s case, the chicken pox “brought her diabetes out”.

SS]