What is Brittle Diabetes?

Brittle diabetes is a rare and highly unstable form of diabetes. Read on to know the causes of this type of diabetes, along with its symptoms, treatment and risk factors.
HealthHearty Staff
One of the most common diseases seen in the world today is diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a condition where high levels of blood glucose are present in the body. This diabetes is of many types, it could be due to lack of insulin in the body (type 1 diabetes) or due to development of tolerance to the action of insulin (type 2 diabetes) or may even be seen only during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). I am sure that all of you have heard about these different types of diabetes at some or the other time in your life. However, do you know about a rare form of diabetes known as brittle diabetes? Well, this is a type that is seen in hardly 1 - 2% of diabetics.
Brittle diabetes, also known as unstable or labile diabetes, is a type of diabetes that is seen in insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, that is, type 1 diabetes. In this condition, there is a large amount of fluctuation in the blood glucose levels in an unpredictable manner, right from hyperglycemia to hypoglycemia. The causes of this type of diabetes are not known, although psychological factors and anorexia nervosa have been implicated.
The symptoms of this type of diabetes are highly unpredictable. This is because this diabetes shows symptoms of both, hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. Thus, when a person has very high levels of blood glucose, then he will show symptoms like polyphagia (increased hunger), polyuria (increased urination) and polydipsia (increased thirst), which are the common diabetes symptoms. He may also complain of blurred vision, fatigue, dry mouth and skin, etc. On the other hand, if the person lands up with abnormally low sugar levels, then he may complain of dizziness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty speaking, weakness, confusion, tiredness, headache, etc.
The fact is due to its relatively rare occurrence, not too many studies have been done on this kind of diabetes, and so, treatment cannot be conclusively prescribed. The best thing would be to keep an eye out to check for trends regarding variations in blood sugar levels. Check if there is any underlying factor involved or not, and then try to isolate it and treat it first. You can try and optimize the type of insulin that you are taking, so as to see which one and which dose leads to the least amount of side effects and sugar level fluctuation. In cases where the person has very severe degrees of this type of diabetes, especially when it is leaning on the side of increased episodes of hyperglycemia, he can try following a special diet or an insulin resistance diet.
The problem with brittle diabetes is the fact that this condition can lead to such severe fluctuations in the blood glucose that you could be suffering from hyperglycemia and then, after a few hours, hypoglycemia. It is often seen that such unstable cases may end up suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, which may even lead to diabetic coma and death. On the other hand, if a person develops dangerously low blood sugar levels, then he may have convulsions, disorientation, and eventual loss of consciousness.
This is a rare but severe form of diabetes that needs to be taken very seriously, because the fluctuation in sugar levels may prove to be dangerous. So the best thing to do would be to take precautionary measures, like getting your blood sugar checked on a regular basis, and carrying things like insulin injections, sugar bars and high-calorie drinks, which could come in handy in cases of hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic attacks.