Unstable diabetes is a type of diabetes where a person’s blood glucose (sugar) level fluctuates very quickly. Unstable diabetes is also called ‘brittle diabetes’ and ‘labile diabetes’. Possible causes for this type of diabetes include gastrointestinal absorption problems, delayed stomach emptying, drug interactions, problems with insulin absorption, or hormonal malfunction. In addition, the treatment of thyroid problems and adrenal gland conditions may lead to unstable diabetes, according to Diabetes.About.com.

In people with stable forms of diabetes, blood sugar levels fluctuate all the time, but normally this does not affect their daily living much. The same cannot be said for people with unstable diabetes. People with brittle diabetes must be hospitalized frequently and they often must miss work. In addition, many people with unstable diabetes have psychological problems which they have to attend to. All these factors normally add to even more emotional and financial stress.


Causes and Symptoms of Unstable Diabetes


People who suffer from psychological problems carry the highest risk of getting brittle diabetes. These usually include stress and depression. Psychological problems cause neglect of diabetes care. Allowing these blood sugar levels to wane causes metabolic imbalances which begin to make these levels fluctuate more frequently. This furthers the tension and stress, and these conditions continue in a vicious cycle.

Unstable diabetes affects women who are overweight most often; they are usually in between the ages of 15 and 30. Many people also get unstable diabetes as a result of gastrointestinal problems. Gastroperesis affects the rate at which food is absorbed. It also has effects on insulin and glucose in the bloodstream. This condition often results in damage to the nerves which control vital organs.

DiabetesWellBeing.com states that doctors often have trouble determining whether or not a diabetic is truly “brittle”. After all, there are a number of health problems that could cause these types of symptoms. So, misdiagnosis is very common. Many times people who manage their diabetes poorly are diagnosed with unstable diabetes. Phenomenon such as the Somogyi effect and the dawn phenomenon have also lead to false diagnoses.

The Somogyi effect is your body’s attempt to balance itself naturally. It is a swing from low glucose levels during the night and high glucose levels in the waking hours of the morning. This occurs because the body reacts to the low blood sugar levels by releasing hormones such as glucagon and epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones cause the liver to release it stores of sugar into the blood sugar. Sometimes this works too well and blood sugar levels run too high.

The dawn phenomenon happens fairly commonly among diabetics. Sometimes diabetics will go to bed with a perfect blood sugar reading and wake-up the next morning with high blood sugar levels. This works in a similar fashion as the Somogyi effect, however in this case the hormones also suppress the activity of the body’s insulin to inhibit glucose utilization within the body’s cells and muscles (First-Signs-of-Diabetes-Symptoms.com, 2012).