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Your views: I’m passionate about raising awareness of type 1 diabetes symptoms

megan armstrong

Megan Armstrong, from Wiltshire, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2021, following a 10-month long illness. Here she talks about the symptoms she experienced before she was eventually diagnosed. 

I experienced a range of symptoms  

In 2020, I started to wake up in the night with severe ankle cramps. The pain would be so severe that I’d wake up screaming and my ankles swelled up so much that I now have trauma marks up and down my legs.  

After my initial doctor’s appointment, I was put on several different waiting lists and eventually ended up on an 18-week waiting list to see a rheumatologist, largely due to the fact my mum has rheumatoid arthritis.  

During the 18-week wait to see a rheumatologist, the ankle cramps continued, and I started to develop the 4Ts. I was also experiencing hair loss, mood changes and menstrual changes.    

I began to doubt it was rheumatoid arthritis but when I was finally seen by the doctor, they were certain it was arthritis due to my swollen ankles and the exhaustion I was experiencing.  

I had a range of blood tests done and was told my results were normal but my blood glucose level wasn’t checked, despite the fact I was feeling thirsty all the time and had lost a lot of weight.  

What followed was a hospital stay due to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and finally, a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  

Adapting to living with type 1 diabetes 

It took me months to feel like a human again after my stay in hospital, but I threw myself into learning as much as possible about the condition. I was prescribed Freestyle Libre sensors to help manage my glucose levels.

During this recovery period I also learnt that there were six abnormalities in my initial blood test results which were missed by doctors. 

The online diabetes community has been a huge support for me, and it was on Instagram where I found others who had experienced symptoms that are not the most common signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes, which really helped me feel less alone.  

I’ve spoken to people who told me they experienced leg cramps, hair loss, swollen ankles, frequent urinary tract infections, feet cramps and grey skin, to mention a few different symptoms.  

My hospital admission was really traumatic, and the diagnosis has had an undeniable impact on my mental health. I’ve now gone on to experience complications because of my diabetes including retinopathy, and cataracts in both eyes, which has been difficult.  

Tech has been a huge help for me – I now use an insulin pump, which makes the hard days a little less frequent. I also get great support from my diabetes nurse. 

Now that I know there are others out there who experienced symptoms like leg cramps, I’m so passionate about raising awareness of diabetes symptoms, and I’d love to see more funding going into research that looks at symptoms outside of the most common signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes.  

My advice to anyone who notices something is not quite right? Speak to a healthcare professional and if you experience any of the 4Ts then ask immediately for a blood glucose test. 

What are the 4Ts? 

The 4Ts are: 

  • Toilet – going for a wee more often, especially at night.  
  • Thirsty – being constantly thirsty and not being able to quench it.  
  • Tired – being incredibly tired and having no energy.  
  • Thinner – losing weight without trying to, or looking thinner than usual.  

The 4Ts are the most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes but there are other signs to look out for too. If you develop a new health problem, make sure you seek advice from a medical professional.  

Get specialist information and advice on all aspects of living with diabetes by contacting our helpline on 0345 123 2399.  

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