Diabetes: Where “Getting High” Has a Different Meaning

“You people are really lucky,” an endocrinologist friend said to me several years ago: “You know when you’re getting sick.”


The “you people” he was talking about were those of us who have diabetes. And we know when we’re getting sick because our blood glucose goes up.

“I just wake up one morning and feel rotten,” he continued. “At least you know when it’s coming.”

Maybe. Truthfully, however, it’s the last thing I think about. Take the last time, for example.

“What did I eat?” I muttered to myself when my BGs rose and stayed up. Well, there was the spaghetti, but I skipped the bread and put a minimal amount of low-fat dressing on my salad. Also, the sauce was Bolognese, not Alfredo.

Nope. I don’t believe it was the spaghetti. Then I thought of something else.

“Oh, here we go again,” I grumbled when my BGs rose and I couldn’t get them to go below 160-ish. Even if I’d glitched on adjusting for the spaghetti, my glucose would have been back to normal by then. This time, they were still high. Like in the 200s for the most part. I even hit close to 400 mg/dl once, and I NEVER do that!

Since I have this annoying habit of running low and having to adjust my basal rates down – only to start running high and having to adjust my basal rates UP – I figured it was time for my glucose to start going squirrelly again. So I upped my basal rates.

While I came down, it wasn’t by much and wasn’t nearly as much as it should have.

What else could it be? Carbs and dietary fat can be a problem, but the effects of the spaghetti should have been long over (and don’t smack my hand – spaghetti as a main dish is a treat for me). I hadn’t cut back on exercise. Raging hormones are no longer an issue.

All of this was swirling through my head as I checked my foot one night. And then I found it: The nail on my big toe looked a bit “off,” so I gently pushed on it. The nail was a bit loose…and the nail bed was infected.

Did you know an infection can cause your blood glucose to rise? Yep. Little more than a day after I cleaned my toe really well and put some antibiotic cream and a bandage over it, my glucose began to drop. It’s nearly back to the ranges I’m used to now.

That was last Wednesday night. I needed to see my podiatrist, whose office is about 90 miles from where I live. However, school and work schedules, Yom Kippur, and the hours kept by the clinic he works in were combining to make an immediate visit impossible.

So I left a message at his office Thursday and, after not receiving a response, called his house that evening. He was at a meeting, but his wife and I had a delightful conversation and he called me back Friday morning, apologizing that nobody had given him my message at the office, then giving me the number for his private line. The one with the voice mail he listens to himself.

We went over what I’d been doing, he suggested some changes and called in a prescription for me. So far it’s better, and I’ll be going to see him on Wednesday.

There are some lessons here; lessons that I sometimes forget. When my glucose goes up and stays there, I need to examine myself to determine if I’m “getting sick” one way or another. Am I stressed? Depressed? Getting a stuffy head? Have a scratchy throat? Any areas that feel warm, indicating the possibility of an infection?

It’s also great to have wonderful health-care providers. My podiatrist is one of them. He understands how important it is to me that my foot be taken care of. After all, I only have one and don’t want to lose it. I feel comfortable calling him at home. I like that he was willing to give me his private number at the office. He’s a good doctor, too.

My toe is getting better and my glucose has gotten better. Next? It appears to be flu-shot season. Don’t forget to get yours. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October. That’s in a couple of weeks.

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • jim snell

    Interesting discussion about levels being high.

    I found that as well. What I found out was that as the skeletal muscles get loaded with glucose; there is no more room to store extra glucose.

    I ended up cutting diet to 1200 calories and then walking 2 miles to hammer down the glucose out of muscles.

    I also found that my dawn effect was so nasty that I was at 238 first thing in am every day. Initially, I found walking 2 miles in am and tiny low glycemic breakfast; I could get BG back to 140 and under.

    Later watching cgms and adding metformin doses; I was able to cut excess liver glucose release as well as hammering dawn effect back.

    After all that my numbers were back low and under control and I continue 1200 calorie diet and metformin doses and regular exercise.

    On my body read was that once one saturates the glucose stores of the skeletal muscles, the glucose backs up in blood stream and one has extreme high insulin resistance and insulin does not work as effectively.

    Prior to that I was 180 plus routinely and higher.

    Science has not yet arrived at point that skeletal muscles are NOT Infinite Energy (glucose) dumps and Insulin just keeps on working-trucking!

  • Ferne

    What stupid remarks by an endocrinologist. I had one of those once and never saw him again. So arrogant and put me down with his remarks.

  • joy chutz

    I am so tired of hearing how “lucky” I am to be diabetic. If you are not diabetic and think that’s true, would you like to share my luck? And if you are diabetic and think that’s true, would you choose to be “unlucky” if you could?