What You Don't Know

They say that ignorance is bliss. I guess in some ways that may be true. And I, like many others, was blissfully ignorant when it came to diabetes and its symptoms.

Misconceptions, half-truths and complete fantasy seem to be the historical norm when it comes to diabetes information. With all that we do know and the many advancements in medicine and science that have brought hope and clarity to this condition, the same conundrum exists today. To be sure, there are people and organizations dedicated to correcting this problem. Nonetheless the majority of people have very little accurate understanding of any aspect of diabetes.

Up until a Friday afternoon in October 2010 I was one of those people. That was when these words wrapped themselves around me like a cold icy grip from beyond the pale, “You have diabetes”.What?! Had I missed something? How could this be? I ate a fairly healthy diet. I was not overweight. No one in my family had this. Why did I not see this coming? Like many of us I did not understand that diabetes is actually an autoimmune disease.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months I began to realize the truth. I had, indeed, missed something. I had missed many things. I missed them because I was completely unaware of the fact that they had meaning. Over time I had experienced nearly all of the common symptoms of diabetes. Diabetes was the farthest thing from my mind. I looked at the symptoms in isolation, as individual events and symptoms. I was completely oblivious to the story they were trying to tell.

You would think that with all the efforts put forth to raise awareness of diabetes it would be difficult not to know these things. But the sad fact is that the vast majority of people who are not already touched by diabetes in some way are still unaware and misinformed about the disease and its progression.

If I had been more aware and knowledgeable about diabetes, I most likely could have avoided a great many of the challenges and complications I have dealt with since diagnosis. Here are a few of the things that I missed or ignored. These could have changed the course of my life had I understood and acted on them at the time.

• I drank a lot of water, almost a gallon each day. My mouth seemed to always be dry.

• I was always in the bathroom. Frequent urination is another big indicator. I just figured it had more to do with the amount of water I drank and my aging prostate.

• I had difficulty getting a sharp focus. My vision was beginning to be blurry. I attributed this to the fact that it was time for new glasses.

• I experienced foot pain and often had muscle cramps. This was easily explained by the hours I stood on concrete. So I bought better shoes. Eventually the pain left and turned into a numbness.

• I had numbness and pain in my hands which I attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome, but I was wrong.

These are just a handful of the more obvious symptoms of diabetes. I wanted to share with you not only the symptoms, but my own justifications and totally inaccurate conclusions just in case they sound familiar to anyone.

If any of this sounds familiar to you at all, talk to your doctor. Inform yourself about the symptoms of diabetes. This disease is far too common for you to assume, as I did, that you will not be affected. I can tell you, from my own experience, as difficult as it is to understand and deal with diabetes, dealing with the complications and the aftermath of neglect is by FAR the more challenging of the two.

This was originally posted in my blog at http://www.greatbg.com/what-you-dont-know/


Thanks for sharing that @Randy5. My route was different, but the diagnosis took me by just as much surprise.

Unlike you, I did have a tendency to gain weight; however, I worked very hard and gotten to a healthy weight, which I’d maintained for a number of years prior to diagnosis. I also did have some “history” with diabetes, in the for m of my mother’s Type 2, which she maintained fairly successfully by simply taking metformin and very minor adjustments to her diet. One other factor I’ve considered was the fact that the year I was diagnosed was a year of extreme stress in my life = who knows how that impacted me.

I did not noticeably have any of the “classic” symptoms. Sure, I drank a lot of water, but it was not from thirst - it was a habit, intentionally started well over 20 years prior to my diagnosis as part of one or another weight-management routines.

The same goes for trips to the bathroom - I went reasonably often, but not noticeable more often prior to diagnosis than I did over the previous 20 years.

I did have one summer of “vision problems” which were a result of leaving my glasses in a very hot car long enough for the plastic lenses to be just slightly out of shape enough to give me headaches when I used them and some small distortion. Took a while to replace them, since they were expensive progressives, and I kept hoping there was some reason besides the glasses to explain my headaches. (Little did i know…)

I don’t know if I had any more significant foot or hand pain prior to diagnosis because I have some bad sitting/studying habits that tend to result in pinched nerves and pain. That’s a symptom I’d never notice unless it was severe, as a result (and it was not).

As a result of all that, officially, I was asymptomatic at diagnosis. In retrospect, I might have some symptoms that could have been signs of diabetes. For one, my hair was thinning over that year. That could have been a symptom, though my father’s hair thinned in middle age, and he is not diabetic.

I also have dry skin. I’ve always had dry skin, but it is possible that at that time, it was marginally worse. Symptom? Aging?

I had a few other “symptoms” that could easily be attributed to normal aging or to diabetes. What sent me to the doctor was what turned out to be a staph infectino, but it presented in a way that was frightening enough to get me to see a doctor.

The moral? Yes - as @Randy5 said, pay attention to the classic symptoms of diabetes and see the doctor if you think you might be experiencing them. However, I’ll add - don’t wait for a problem to see you doctor. Get that physical you’ve been pushing off . If nothing else, it will give you peace of mind, but it just might save you a lot of trouble later.


When you think back, how long do you think you’d been having symptoms? What ultimately led you to the doctor’s office in October 2010?

(I love your writing style Randy)

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Thank you very much for the compliment Marie. It is sort of like I found something inside me that I never knew was there. A diabetes plus?

So now we are entering the area of diabetes humor.

I can tell you exactly what led me to the doctor in October 2010. It was my wife. We had been waiting for “the right time” to get married. She informed me that it was next month, September. She told me she was putting me on her health insurance and getting me to the doctor for a wedding present.

My best guess is that this all began around 1991. I had some stress. November 1990 my grandfather passed away. We were very close. Four days after his funeral I was laid off from my job of six years. Around Easter my wife went off the rails and sent my oldest daughter to live with her mother. By May she had split. During this time I started a new career. It took until August 1992 to get the divorce finalized.

My normal weight at that time was about 230 pounds. I’m just over 6 feet tall. As all this mayhem was occurring I was using food for comfort. I ballooned up to 285 pounds. That was a wake-up call and I got serious about making better food choices and dropping some pounds. I got down to about 220 and eventually down to about 180 pounds. I maintainedf that weight for about six years until I was diagnosed and weighed only 145 pounds.

That is what I believe to be the trigger. On the other hand, now that I am familiar with the effects of low blood sugar, I realize that I have had hypoglycemia pretty much my whole life. I can clearly recall episodes occurring before my children were born over 40 years ago.

Also, now that I know what they are, I had symptoms of complications beginning in about 2004 to 2005.

So now you know the back story of this blog post. Or at least the cliff notes.

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I I don’t know Thas, I don’t think that our paths were that much different. Other than I did not try a lot of diets, our weight issues seem pretty similar. Our symptoms seem to have affected us differently, but we were both oblivious in any case.

Thank you for sharing your story. There are far too many of us who have this disease, but did not recognize what was happening. This is one area that I am really concerned about making an impact. It is made all the worse by the misconceptions that are so pervasive.

I swear there’s a stress connection sometimes - I was bullied relentlessly in 7th grade by someone and I couldn’t ask for help. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it and look for solutions. I was extremely depressed and my family didn’t notice. Months later, entering a new school for 8th grade, I was dx a couple weeks after school started. I do remember drinking lots of water. It all came to be revealed when I had to get a physical for the new school.


I hear you on that MarieB,

I took a rather hard beating from the local reprobate when I was aged 12 and was kicked unconscious. I was in hospital with a diabetes diagnoses six weeks later!

I remember my endo stating that stress is often a precursor to a diagnosis, not that my empirical sample of one adds much to the debate.

I have a couple of diabetic friends and my mother was also type 1, all diagnosed after some form of viral infection/fever in the previous months.