What was once commonly referred to as “Brittle Diabetes,” is a volatile form of diabetes mellitus. Unstable blood sugar levels cause sufferers a host of physical problems which eventually lead to a shortened lifespan.
“Brittle Diabetes” was the term once used to describe a type one diabetic with extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. Due to advances in technology and the invention of many types of insulins, diabetes can be managed. and people who have diabetes are living longer, healthier lives
What Is “Brittle Diabetes” or Labile Diabetes?
Many diabetics experience occasional blood sugar instability especially when taking insulin or certain other diabetes medications, including the sulfonylureas (glyburide, glimepiride, glipizide). However, these diabetics with extremely volatile blood sugar results experience wide and unpredictable swings in blood sugar that may not respond to traditional treatment. Please note that the term, “brittle” is no longer recognized or approved in medical terminology, according to the American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes.
“Brittle Diabetes”, also known as labile or volatile diabetes, is a form of diabetes mellitus defined by blood sugar instability. The blood sugar will shift very quickly from low to high, and from high to low. “Brittle Diabetes” was the term once used to describe a type one diabetes with uncontrolled blood sugars.
“Brittle Diabetes,” (Labile or Volatile) Causes:
The root cause for volatile blood sugar results is low insulin levels. However, the cause for these low insulin levels varies from person to person. If you suffer from this type of blood glucose instability, you may suffer from other related disorders like:
- Autonomic neuropathy: Autonomic neuropathy affects the non-voluntary, non-sensory nervous system, including the digestive tract. Diabetes is one of the most common causes. As nerves die in the digestive track — a consequence of type 1 diabetes — the bowels function more slower than usual. Consequently, insulin is absorbed more slowly and fails to control the body’s blood sugar levels.
- Poor insulin absorption: Diabetics with poor insulin absorption have trouble producing insulin and just as much trouble absorbing supplemental insulin. This means that even with medication their body cannot internalize enough insulin to regulate their blood sugar.
- Drug interaction: Some drugs like alcohol and anti-psychotics can interfere with insulin or other diabetes medications. That interference nullifies the effect of medication and leads to unstable blood sugar levels.
- Other medical problems: There are a number of medical problems that can result in unstable diabetes. Addison’s disease, poor thyroid or adrenal function, and other disorders can affect blood sugar levels or the body’s receptiveness to insulin.
Labile diabetes can have a number of underlying causes. Many of those causes are treatable. If you suspect that you have unstable diabetes, it is important to talk to your physician or diabetes educator. The sooner you seek treatment, the more quickly you can find a management program to reduce its effect on your life.
“BRITTLE” OR LABILE DIABETES: LIFE EXPECTANCY
Labile diabetes is defined by its profound effects. The swings in blood sugar that these diabetics experience significantly shorten their lifespan. These are a few of the symptoms that negatively affect unstable diabetics:
- Kidney damage: The wide swings in blood pressure that brittle diabetics suffer wreak havoc on the small blood vessels. One consequence of this neuropathy is kidney damage and scarring. Over time, as the blood sugar swings continue to destroy the body, the kidneys may stop functioning altogether. In these cases, diabetics must undergo dialysis several times a week to stay alive.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Small blood vessel damage also effects the eyes. Over time, sufferers gradually lose their vision. Diabetics may even go blind if they cannot get their blood pressure under control.
- Amputation: Neuropathy also affects the extremities. As the blood sugar fluctuations cause the nerves to die, diabetics feel numbness or tingling in the feet as the skin gets damaged. As the disease progresses, they may develop foot ulcers and other foot problems and may have to have their toes, feet or legs amputated.
- Depression: One of the most insidious effects of brittle diabetes is its impact on your personal life. These diabetics often spend a considerable amount of time in the hospital because of their fluctuating blood sugar levels. The resulting bills, acknowledgment of shortened life expectancy and other concerns often have a profound effect on the psyche.
This type of diabetes is one of the most dangerous forms of an already dangerous disease. Because blood sugar levels remain unregulated, manageable diabetic symptoms quickly get out of control. If you think you might suffer from labile or uncontrolled diabetes, Talk with your healthcare provider about changing your medications or perhaps starting one.
Thanks for stopping by my Dealing With Diabetes blog! My name is LeeAnna. I am certified as a diabetes care and education specialist (formally known as a certified diabetes educator). My goal is to answer questions you may have about diabetes or dealing with diabetes. Mixed messages are everywhere. Hopefully, this blog will help clarify some of the confusion!