One Side Effect from a Low Blood Glucose

Before I begin this week’s blog entry, let me state the following for people who may have found this link while looking for actual side effects from a low blood glucose: The subject of this piece isn’t really (I don’t think) a legitimate side effect from a low blood glucose. Instead, it’s probably part of some personal quirk or idiosyncrasy. Who knows.


Early last week, I had a nighttime low (which, if you’re interested, you can read about in last week’s entry, “Regarding the Diabetes”). My worries about that hypoglycemic episode must have taken root in my psyche over the next few days, because later in the week I had a series of odd moments while driving home from work.

It was a commute that started out just like any other drive home. I left work close to 5 o’clock, walked two blocks to the parking garage, and headed home down the back roads I often take on the outskirts of the city (I live about 10 miles from the office). I drove along listening to some early Springsteen and, because I hadn’t eaten lunch, I was thinking about my empty stomach and how I really wanted to get home and eat dinner.

Five minutes into my drive home, my wife phoned me to let me know she was on her way to karate and wouldn’t be home until 9. When I answered the phone, I noticed on the cell’s display that I was down to one bar of charge on the battery…and once it hits one bar, my phone’s not long for this world.

I told Kathryn my phone was about to die, and we ended the call (I don’t have a car charger, and I don’t want a dead cell phone while on the road if I can help it; you know, just in case).

A mile or so later, my low-fuel light came on. I was down to my last few gallons of gas, and although there was little chance of running empty for at least 50 miles, it didn’t matter. I started to worry that something was going to go wrong (stuck in traffic, for instance), and, for a few minutes, I fixated on this.

For the record, my low-fuel anxiety is one I’ll blame on my wife: When she’s in the car with me when that little amber light comes on, there’s a pretty high need to refuel as soon as possible. I used to be cool with the light for a good 20 or 30 miles. I would flirt with fumes. But, as both of us have seen happen, some of our worries have, over the years, become part of one collective anxiety. The running-out-of-gas neurosis is now mine, as well.

A mile or so later, my insulin pump buzzed. I felt it on my hip and maneuvered around the seat belt buckle to bring the pump out into the open to see what the alarm was for. The insulin reservoir was low; less than 15 units remained—which is actually enough to get me through at least 10 hours. And yet the low cartridge alarm, following as it did on the heels of a low cell phone battery and low gas gauge, added just enough weight to the circuit in my brain that deals with things related to “low,” and by then that circuit had started overheating and was sizzling slightly.

I’d checked my blood glucose before driving, and it was well within the normal range, yet in the confusion of trying to determine which evening-commute low to triage first, I began to feel as if my blood sugar was dropping. Yes, I know, and I knew then, that none of these lows were, of course, immediate. But remember: I was hungry, too, which no doubt contributed to my inability to quickly grasp what was going on.

I wasn’t freaking out or anything, and I was not, at any point, driving unsafely (lest the tone of this blog entry make it sound as if I was frantic and weaving all over the road, juggling cell phone and insulin pump while trying to find a gas card).

The power of this commute and its many lows, however, did a psychosomatic number on me, and I noticed several symptoms of a hypoglycemic episode coming on (weak legs, some sweating). For a few minutes, my brain confounded me on which low was which; for a few seconds, I was certain that I needed carbohydrates.

Then I came back to my senses.

Another test of the blood glucose a few minutes later at home confirmed I’d never been anywhere near a low blood sugar.

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10 thoughts on “One Side Effect from a Low Blood Glucose

  1. Eric – Through your blogs I find your approach to control of diabetes sloppy unless your stories are fictional and you are trying to send a message of what NOT to do living with any kind of diabetes. There was nothing funny about your story – only a sad message of lack of planning.

    Dealing with type I for 50+ years I have many stories but none of them are funny – only foolish as I learned how to care for myself better each day, month and through the years!

    The stress you caused yourself by avoiding a meal, lack of carbs in the car at all times, and lack of over-all planning is serious. You may have brought harm to not only yourself but others while driving and loosing control!!

    I doubt this message will be posted but perhaps you will be able to read it anyway and get the message I am sending to you out of concern. Take care of yourself with every ounce of effort you have, every day for the rest of your life.

    Your family and friends AND you deserve your best TRY!! Your readers also deserve much better examples of how to better care for oneself!

  2. Eric, First. Please don’t skip lunch. Skipping meals can cause all kinds of problems. Next. The sweating and wobbly legs you experienced could be contributed to an incipient anxiety attack as well as being symptoms of low blood sugar. I think you were working yourself up due to the several events happening in sequence like they did. I also think that it may not have affected you that badly if you’d had lunch.

    JOAN – give him a bit of a break. He IS newly diagnosed and it takes a while for it to all sink in. His blogs are highlighting the trials of being newly diagnosed.

  3. Hi guys. I appreciate Joan’s commentary and hope her viewpoint prompts others to reply (I can handle dissenting viewpoints). I can see how some of the blog entries might indicate sloppy care, but that’s truly not the case (read this blog entry again; I clearly indicate that was never at risk of hypoglycemia; I FELT like it, but I knew that the feeling wasn’t actually a low blood glucose).

    I hope to have forty-nine more years of living with diabetes successfully, as Joan has, and I congratulate her on her successful management of diabetes. However, I do have to say I’ll be damned if I won’t laugh at least several times a week about many of my diabetes-related stories. Type 1 isn’t funny, but life, being human (for me, at least) is quite funny. Absurd really. And that’s what makes it so great, diabetes or not.

    And the insulin pump, if basal rates are adjusted correctly, allows me to skip meals if I so choose. That’s the beauty of the pump: it’s not the same as daily injections. If I’m supposed to still eat on a rigid schedule and worry every time I skip a meal, then my endocrinologist, my CDE, and most of the information I read have is wrong. In fact, in trying to determine my pump basal rates and if they’re correct, one way to do it is to fast for a day. I mean, this is coming from an endocrinologist who’s highly respected.

    Thanks again for the conversation, all of you! And Joan, I have a feeling we’d have a great talk over a cup of coffee!


  4. Lighten up Joan! Those of us with diabetes know that it is a full-time “job”. I have had Type 1 for 30 years and I’ve managed to be in “control” (6.7 A1C thank you very much) AND have had many laughs along the way. Yes, diabetes IS a serious condition, but it is no reason to lose your sense of humor!

  5. I couldn’t agree more with Eric. I have had Type 1 Diabetes for over 30 years, and I find the best way to deal with my constant, vigiliant care is to lighten up and find the humor in the situation. Humor lightens the mood, and offers humanity to the situation. We’ve all had situations that have led us into “teaching moments” but I am happy to read Eric’s trials and tribulations as they are a true dipiction of the everyday issues related to constant monitoring.

  6. Hey, I get the reasons to be prepared and responsible but stuff happens. I have never even talked to one peson who has type 1 diabetes in my 20 years of having it. This is great. I can’t believe you all are out there. Yep, we manage and sometimes it’s dangerous. I recall snow skiing and needing some sugar. while still skiing my friend handed me an apple juice box. Hey, I drank it and kept going. Gotta live right? Do whatever it takes but don’t let life pass you by along the way.

  7. I’ve been a “type 1” diabetic since 1983. And while it is true, living with diabetes is no lauging matter, I agree with the author that living with diabetes can at times be a very amusing thing. It may be starkly dark humor.. but it can be funny. 🙂

    I just went low while at work (I’m on lunch break now) and when I got back from the cafeteria to find what I had typed on my computer during the low…I laughed out loud.

    Now I do have some VERY scary stories of lows during commutes… and I won’t get into them… so I would say a story of being low while driving and what it can do is NOT funny at all. But this story of THINKING your low when driving, when your not at all… is kinda amusing.

    Unfortunately these days after 25 years, my blood glucose level symptoms are getting harder and harder to “feel” or notice… so I’ve taken to not driving unless I have to. My situation is great in that I live 2 blocks from work, and my wife drives us when we go elsewhere.

    I recommend that ALL diabetics that are having regular swings of blood sugar, be it low or high, be it due to changes of dosage or types of insulin, or just poor control, should try to find a way to avoid driving whenever possible.

    Low blood sugar is the easy one, in that we all know that it can cause poor judgment and poor reaction times, just like being under the influence of alcohol, but extremely HIGH blood sugar is also a detriment to driving ability, the dehydration and sore muscles can decrease your muscular reaction and strength in an emergency situation.

    Regardless, I happened upon this blog post while searching for “funny effects of low blood sugar”, to see if I could find anything like what just happened to me at work.

  8. I have not actually had any tests. I’m 50 and female, my 29 year old son passed away in May, it was devestating to say the least. I couldn’t eat, sleep, was in terrible mental state. As a lasting memorial to him I had his name tatood in my leg, during the tatoo, I asked for a rest period (was painful), started sweating and next thing I knew I passed out. When I came to, they offered me a coke which they had to help me drink because I was shaking so badly and still sweating. Once I got a few swollows down I felt better and we went on to finish the tatoo. This has happened several times since then, minus the actual loss of consciousness. My legs feel like rubber, get real hungry, start sweating and shaking real bad. A few calories help. My doctor said it’s my eating habits (self-inflicted) but I’m on the verge of hypoglycemia although we did no tests. Every morning I wake up with a headache and uncontrolable shaking. I can’t eat first thing in the morning and never have. I’m taking Zoloft, Valium (small amounts) and Estrogen, that’s it. Any advise? Is this forum for that?

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