My Own Unexpected Diagnosis
Type 2 diabetes can strike even the healthiest person.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
February 2007 —It was puzzling to hear the doctor's voice when he called me at home to ask how I was feeling. Fine, I thought. A persistent cold and cough, and a bit of missed sleep with an active baby at home, but I felt OK. Why was the hospital's employee health physician calling my house?
I had been in the day before for a routine check. Despite being on family leave, I was still required to have routine health checks, like all employees of the hospital where I was practicing medicine. The doctor had taken a blood sample, done a perfunctory exam, and sent me on my way. He'd never before called me to discuss any of my examination results.
"I have some very bad news," he explained. "Are you sure you're feeling OK?" My mind raced back to the day before. What blood tests had been ordered? How many different colored sample tubes had there been? My physician's mind was scrambling to figure out what I could possibly have that was so grave that would still have been diagnosable from a blood test result. When he finally came to the point and said, "I'm afraid you have diabetes," I was actually relieved – having imagined scenarios with a far worse prognosis.
Diabetes? It didn't make sense to me. I was in my 30s, not overweight, and pretty good about exercising and taking care of myself. I did not have hypertension or abnormal blood lipid levels. Where were my risk factors? Where were the symptoms of thirst, frequent urination, hunger, weight loss? I hadn't had any symptoms. Still, my random glucose level had been measured at 261. Get to a doctor today, he told me. I needed further evaluation.
Flash forward to a few days later in an endocrinologist's office. I had had fasting and random glucose levels measured endlessly, it seemed, for the past few days. I also took an oral glucose tolerance test. Everything was abnormal. It was real. I had diabetes.
Gradually I thought less and less like the patient in shock and more like the trained physician. Actually, I did have one significant risk factor – a family history of the condition. While my parents did not have diabetes, two of my grandparents and at least one great-grandparent were affected. And while I'd never had such obviously high glucose levels, there were a few instances in past years where glucose testing had yielded very slightly elevated values, results that had been dismissed as anomalous or insignificant at the time. I'd likely had prediabetes then and never known it.
If there's a lesson from my diagnosis, it's that anyone is at risk for diabetes. My case also illustrates the fact that many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms specific for the condition. In fact, sometimes people with type 2 diabetes will only be diagnosed when they exhibit some of the long-term complications of the disease such as retinopathy or neuropathy.
Of course, I'd rather not have diabetes. But if I'm going to have it, I'd rather know it and enjoy the health benefits from effective treatment. I guess I'm lucky that the hospital required those health checks.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
I recently read a very interesting article on the state of precision medicine in the treatment of cancer in Popular Science magazine. Precision medicine, also called "individualized medicine", uses several types of genetic markers for known medical...