What is brittle diabetes?

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Brittle diabetes is considered as a severe form of diabetes characterized by the up and down blood sugar levels. The fluctuations in the glucose levels can disrupt with the quality of life and even lead to hospitalization.


The advancements in the management of diabetes made the condition uncommon but it is still an issue among diabetics. Remember that it is an indication that the blood sugar is not properly controlled.

What are the risk factors?

The symptoms of increasing and dropping blood sugar are the usual indications of brittle diabetes brought about by the instabilities in the blood sugar level.

Brittle diabetes is considered exclusive to individuals with type 1 diabetes. Just remember though that not all with type 1 diabetes will develop the condition and those with type 2 are not immune. Some doctors classify it as a complication of diabetes while some consider it a sub-type of type 1.

Always bear in mind that brittle diabetes causes the blood sugar to peak and drop at rapid rates. Even though type 1 is characterized by high blood sugar levels, the body might have a reaction to insulin and result to low glucose drops. This results to a dangerous “roller-coaster” like effect. The fluctuation in glucose can be rapid and unpredictable, resulting to dramatic symptoms. The common risk factors include the following:

  • Being female
  • Being overweight
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Aged 20-30
  • Depression
  • Having high levels of stress regularly

What are the indications?

The symptoms of increasing and dropping blood sugar are the usual indications of brittle diabetes brought about by the instabilities in the blood sugar level.

Having excessively low blood sugar can cause the following:

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme hunger
  • Irritability
  • Double vision
  • Trembling hands
  • Severe headaches
  • Sleeping difficulties

The indications of elevated blood glucose include the following:

  • Dry skin
  • Weakness
  • Visual changes
  • Increased thirst and subsequent urination

Individuals with diabetes have these symptoms once the blood sugar levels become erratic. The difference is that brittle diabetes triggers frequent changes in these symptoms without warning.


Achieving proper balance of the blood sugar level is the main treatment. Due to the fluctuations of glucose, the individual might not respond to insulin normally.

Subcutaneous insulin pumps are highly effective in controlling brittle diabetes. It is still required to monitor the blood sugar regularly to ensure that it does not rise too high.

Some individuals with brittle diabetes can still end up with blood sugar variations despite treatment. In severe instances, a pancreas transplant might be needed but this is rare since the condition often responds positively to alterations in treatment.

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