Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Seizures With Diabetes

In the Facebook Joslin medalist group someone asked if any of us had experienced seizures due to low blood sugar. Every medalist had been type 1 for at least 50 years, and most of the 53 replies given indicated there had been no seizures. Only a few said they had experienced seizures. 

I always thought that a low that caused unconsciousness, with difficulty in being revived, was a seizure. Some medalists were saying that unconsciousness with a low is not a seizure, even if glucagon or a trip to the ER is involved. I began thinking I did not know the true definition of "seizure".

How do you define a seizure? I found the following definition of seizure on Google:

"Seizure: Uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain, which may produce a physical convulsion, minor physical signs, thought disturbances, or a combination of symptoms.The type of symptoms and seizures depend on where the abnormal electrical activity takes place in the brain, what its cause is, and such factors as the patient's age and general state of health.

Seizures can be caused by head injuries, brain tumors, lead poisoning, maldevelopment of the brain, genetic and infectious illnesses, and fevers. In fully half of the patients with seizures, no cause can yet be found."

One medalist said she had many seizures when she was very young. She fought and bit her tongue, and lost part of her tongue with the biting. A few medalists have had seizures with terrible convulsions. Most medalists have not had seizures in light of the definition given.

During my first 60 years with type 1, I had at least 200 episodes with unconsciousness and difficulty in being revived, but I never had convulsions or needed to be restrained, so I conclude that I have never had a seizure. After starting pumping in 2007, I have not needed assistance with a low.

Have any of you reading this post had seizures? If so, were they long ago, or do you still have them? This may be a very personal question, so I understand if you do not want to reply.


  1. Very interesting. I don't know if I'd call them seizures (before I read this post, I would NOT) but I've definitely had uncontrolled twitches when low. I remember (remember! so I was semi-"with it") trying to pour and drink a glass of juice and my hand was shaking so much that half of it splashed on the floor. Another time, when I was living alone, I remember finding myself on the kitchen floor with a jar of apple juice spilled all over, a pain in the back of my head, and a swollen tongue. Apparently, on my way down, I hit my head on the counter behind me and bit my tongue. Doctors said it MIGHT have caused a mild concussion.

    Was it a seizure? Was it uncontrolled electrical activity in my brain? I really don't know. But I'm looking forward to the discussion when I join the 50-year medalist group seventeen years from now.

    Or maybe I'll just follow the other responses to this blog...

  2. Scott, I think you will enjoy the Joslin medalists. The medalists meet in Boston in the odd numbered years. It is so neat to sit and dine, and talk with fellow medalists. There is also the Joslin Medalist Study, more than 900 participants so far. If the study is still ongoing when you have joined, you will be invited to participate (optional). They are trying to find what is is that makes us long termers healthy and free of serious diabetes complications.