A Little Bug (and Not Enough Perspective) Can Cause a Lot of Trouble!

Last week was a long week for me. I had just returned from a two-week tour playing music, and my blood sugar was just surging all over the place. It seemed no matter what I did, I was just high after every meal and every morning. My insulin ratio DOUBLED, and still my numbers climbed. I had no idea what was going on. I know that sugars often rise if the body is fighting off a bug or something like it, but I had never seen a spike like this one.

I called my endocrinologist in despair, and made an appointment to come in. And then the day before the appointment, I realized I had overlooked what might have been a rather huge part of the pattern. During one of the last shows of the tour, in the middle of an outdoor festival set, I was bitten by some kind of insect on my neck. The bite, which I felt RIGHT in the middle of a song in which I was playing lead and therefore couldn’t stop or swat away the offending bug with my hands, hurt — I had assumed it was a hornet when it happened. When we came off stage, my neck had four to five rashes in a cluster that looked almost like chemical burns. I told the stagehand what had happened, and he responded, “Oh yeah, probably a horsefly. Yeah, we got real vicious horseflies around here — hurt like hell!”


It was within the next few days that my numbers started climbing. While my endocrinologist couldn’t say with any more certainty than I could that the horsefly bite had, indeed, been the culprit, she concurred that it was the most likely scenario. And a quick web search quickly proved that horsefly bites often cause real problems. One unfortunate man actually died as a result of a severe allergic reaction to a horsefly. They can carry harmful viruses and bacteria, and the bites themselves can easily cause a mild infection before healing even if they aren’t transmitting diseases. In the case of severe infections (which do happen often enough), someone might require medical treatment to recover fully.

We all know, of course, that we Diabetians experience infections and passing viruses more acutely than the general population. Even if we don’t feel particularly horrible from an infection or bug in our system, we can see it in our blood sugars. And even for those of us who already know this fact, it’s easy to be caught off guard. I certainly was — I had never experienced a blood sugar spike quite like this, but then I’ve never been bitten multiple times by a Georgia horsefly before, either!

My big mistake(s)
After figuring out just how bad a horsefly bite can be for one’s blood sugars, I had my appointment with my endocrinologist. Of course, we looked at the numbers together. I told her how I had frequently compensated for my high blood sugars with extra insulin and increased my premeal ratios in a desperate attempt to reign in my numbers. And she told me about my first mistake: overcompensating! You see, in addition to increasing my ratios during that week, I was also correcting my postmeal highs with more insulin on a regular basis. I was often doing this while the premeal insulin was still active, and the inevitable result was crashing blood sugar later. And of course, I know this pattern can happen. So why did I keep doing it?

I kept overcompensating because of the more fundamental mistake I was caught up in; I became overly fixated on “my blood sugar right this minute.” I got so thrown by those high numbers that I started acting like a few days of higher-than-normal numbers, or even a few days of much-higher-than-normal numbers, would be detrimental. I responded as if my entire life as a Diabetian depended on whatever blood sugar reading I had just seen.

Raising my ratios a bit was fine. That much was probably a good idea. But trying to fix every single high with even more insulin, often taken before the premeal insulin was done affecting my system, was simply unnecessary and usually just kept the yo-yo going. Of course, had this pattern of high numbers continued for another two to three weeks, I wouldn’t have just said, “oh well, that’s just how it is now, I guess.” I’m sure my endocrinologist would have ordered blood work, perhaps checking for thyroid issues, or other potential causes of a sudden decrease in my insulin’s efficacy.

Life isn’t easy with diabetes. It’s really maddening when our body suddenly stops responding rationally to our actions. We think we’ve got all our ratios figured out and then we’re hit by a string of unexpected readings. We think everything is lined up just right and then something comes along and knocks us on our side (or bites us on our neck…). But that’s just how it is living with diabetes. There’s not a thing in the world we can do about that until that wonderful day someone announces a cure (and I’m not holding my breath on that one…). Until then, we’ve gotta be willing to roll with the punches and keep our perspective. I learned that lesson all over again this week thanks to one “real vicious Georgia horsefly”!

A new study shows that use of the diabetes drug metformin is associated with a decreased risk of glaucoma. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.