This was originally posted to my blog, Diabetes Odyssey.
Virtually my entire life living with type 1 diabetes I’ve suffered chronic fatigue. The first 25 years of my diabetic life I was completely uncontrolled, running very high virtually all the time. These chronic high blood sugars also came with chronic fatigue. Now, since I’m under good (and getting better all the time) control, you’d think the fatigue would go away. Nope, I still fight to be able to drag my butt anywhere and not take naps (because they just make me feel more exhausted and stiff and sore).
Why? And do all diabetics suffer this fatigue?
For me there are obvious reasons, some directly related to my diabetes, some indirectly. As for other diabetics (all types), yes, many suffer fatigue, either occasionally or all the frickin’ time. There are reasons why.
First let me specify that when I use the term “chronic fatigue” I do not mean the syndrome, although it may apply, but I have no diagnosis. When I use that term I am simply referring to “feeling exhausted all the time”.
Choose your term: exhaustion, fatigue, sleepy, tired, worn out, weak, lethargic, lazy, weary, faint, feeble, heavy, languish, listless, brain fog, burnout… Whatever you understand it as, this is what I am talking about.
Reasons a diabetic (any type) might feel fatigued:
High blood sugar - This is usually the number one reason for fatigue. If you are experiencing a high, or are chronically high, you will feel what I describe as lazy, physically tired, or burnt out. The reason for this is because you have tons of potential energy built up in your blood but you do not have enough insulin to open the doors of your cells to make use of that energy. So you are tired.
Low blood sugar - When you experience a low, one of the primary symptoms is what I would describe as sleepy, exhaustion, lethargy, weak, feeble, listless, and brain fog. You feel both physical and mental fatigue. The reason for this is that you literally have way too little energy in your system. Your body has too little energy to function properly.
Blood sugar roller-coaster - The blood sugar roller-coaster is defined as when your blood sugar is fluctuating (usually quite fast) from high to low to normal to low to high, etc… This can downright wear you out. Even if it is not fluctuating drastically, maybe it is staying between 70 and 120 but fluctuating from one end to the other too much, you can still experience symptoms of fatigue.
Just living with diabetes - Living with diabetes can be a profoundly exhausting task. It takes a lot of hard work that never ends. That hard work can be wrought with set-backs, let-downs, frustration. There is constant vigilance of diet, blood sugar levels, overall health, medication, etc… The physical, mental, and emotional toll is high. So, yes, it can make you tired. It can burn you out.
Ain’t diabetes grand?
For me, my current struggle with fatigue is mainly caused by my many complications of diabetes. I have a lot of health issues and therefor dealing with them and living with them day in and day out is just exhausting. I suppose I can still blame my diabetes for the fatigue, but really I must also blame myself for all those years of neglect and rebellion.
We can only move forward and continue to work on being as healthy as possible.
There are many other reasons a person can feel fatigued. Maybe you actually do have chronic fatigue syndrome, maybe you just didn’t sleep well last night, maybe you drank too much caffeine and are now crashing. Who knows…
As diabetics it is easy for us to blame our symptoms on our diabetes, but sometimes it’s not our diabetes. No matter what your symptom(s) is/are, you should always consult your doctor before self diagnosing, treating, or ignoring.
Let me just add in closing that the best way to avoid or treat fatigue is to get and keep your blood sugar as normalized and steady as possible. This is a profoundly difficult thing to achieve, but we must keep working at it!
Please don’t give up. Please don’t let diabetes tear you apart. I know you may feel that it is a losing war no matter if you try or not. But let me guarantee you that I know first hand that taking the best care you can of yourself will pay off in the end. It is better to keep trying than to give in to the depression, heartache, and anger.