The semester I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a student of mine started experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia. Anyone with type 1 diabetes knows the symptoms too well: confusion, shakiness, hunger. One day she stumbled into my office her hands shaking so hard she could barely check her blood sugar with the new meter she had just gotten from the drugstore. But when she did check, her blood sugar was in the 70’s; low enough to make most people feel hungry and perhaps cranky and confused, but not enough to cause the symptoms she was experiencing.
A string of doctor’s appointment and blood tests followed. But despite the obvious and increasingly severe symptoms she exhibited, all of the tests came back normal. Nothing appeared to be wrong with her pancreas.
By the end of the semester, she seemed to have symptoms of high blood sugar too: she was always thirsty and always needed the restroom. Even though she constantly drained and refilled her water bottle, her lips and skin were dry and cracked.
Still, all of the tests that the doctors could think to run indicated that she was perfectly fine. Clearly then, it was just all in her head.
After much research and pushing for an accurate diagnosis, she made a trip to the Mayo Clinic that revealed the true cause of her symptoms–a little known condition called diabetes insipidus. This form of diabetes has nothing to do with the body’s ability to make or use insulin; instead, it’s caused by the inability to make or use another hormone, vassopressin, which controls the body’s ability to concentrate urine. Because diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus are unrelated with the exception of a common symptom–excessive urination–people with the condition avoid putting the word “diabetes” on a medical alert jewelry. This former student and current friend now takes DDAVP, which helps regulate her body’s fluid levels.
You can read more about her insights and her journey to diagnosis at her blog, Diabetes Insipidus: It’s all about water.