Which came first: high blood glucose levels or diabetes?

March 18th, 2010 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

First: please let me apologize for asking the kind of question I myself hate to noodle on for any length of time.  My typical response is “why does it matter”?  But, this is a blog; it matters because I’m writing about it.  So there.

I downloaded an app for my iphone the other day called “iDBT: Managing Type 1 Diabetes: A Guide for kids and their families”.  No particular reason I downloaded it, but the fact it was free was very persuasive. 

It basically was a little “game” that pointed out symptoms of IDDM, showed the digestion process, discussed things that affect blood glucose levels, and reminded kids they need to learn about their own bodies and their own diabetes. 

Good stuff; it even used the most memorable term from my first day in the hospital after being diagnosed: “insulin is the key that unlocks the doors to the cells so they can use the glucose in your bloodstream”.  A classic!!


The game kept saying “symptoms” of diabetes.  As in: now that you know you have Type 1 diabetes, be aware of the clues for and symptoms of diabetes.  ???  That doesn’t make sense to me.  You’ve already been diagnosed!

Yes; you need to be aware of the symptoms of high blood glucose.  (Notably, this app did not discuss symptoms of LOW blood glucose, which I consider to be more critical for kids to understand.)  You need to understand what in your body doesn’t work, and how that affects you.  You need to understand what external factors are going to change your blood glucose levels.  You need to understand what to do to make your body keep functioning.   These concepts are essential for every person living with diabetes.

But the app kept mentioning the “symptoms of diabetes”.  Made me wonder: where is the division between a symptom and a diagnosis? 

We all know the symptoms include high blood glucose, ketones, frequent urination, thirst, weight loss, etc.  But the destruction of your pancreas’ beta cells is what actually occurs in type 1 diabetes; the symptoms are merely the manifestations of that destruction. 

So doesn’t that mean that diabetes came first?? 

This kind of thinking gives me a headache…

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