Low Blood Sugar and Double Vision

Ann Bartlett Health Guide January 27, 2009
  • I got an email from my pal, Ginger!  She told me that a week ago she had a really low blood sugar and her vision was really weird.  Her friend was passing her gluten free macaroons and she couldn't focus on her.  Ginger wrote,  "Yeah, my friend Rachel was with me and I couldn't for the life of me get my eyes to look correctly at her! I was looking at her knees while I was trying to see her eyes!"  I knew what she was talking about!

    In 1992, I was working at the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.  Reebok had given me a contract and part of that deal was time in Spain at the Olympics.  We were there for 3 and half weeks.  Working at something like that is chaotic everyday!  I was happy working on athletes, but I also helped out with sponsor's room.  Reebok was the footwear sponsor for the Olympics that year.  Athletes would come in and pick up their clothing and shoes for the games, business deals were being done with federations to make sure that all the countries attending the Olympics had uniforms for their athletes to wear.  And being the person that I am, I pitched in anytime I was not massaging the athletes.  Our day started at 7AM and I usually found myself sitting down to dinner around 12:30-1AM.  Spain was difficult for me!  They aren't breakfast people, then they have siesta from 1-4pm and then a lite lunch is somewhere between 4-6 and then dinner is around 10pm.


    All of this would be manageable if all I had to do were handle my life.  But I was in the midst of millions of people, a city that was sold out of rooms and restaurants, and running to venues to watch the athletes I was working on compete in their event.  Many times a good meal was not at my fingertips until dinner.  A couple of days after the games started, I was sitting at a restaurant looking at the menu and the letters looked chopped up, like the paper had been caught in the printer.  I thought it was something with the menu, so I asked to look at my fiancé's menu.  His looked the same.  Then I noticed that my thumb was misshapen and panic set in!  What was happening?  This happened several times and I referred to it as "Picasso's painting",  every thing in life looked like abstract art!

    When I returned home, I called my ophthalmologist thinking I was seeing the start of retinopathy.  He told me I had no signs of retinopathy, but what it sounded like was double vision or vision fluctuation.  He felt the probable cause was from running low to often and too long.  So if my blood glucose was between 70-100, there were times during that I had been dipping below 70 and probably not treating.  A small handful of nuts and off I would go to the next thing, pulling the blood sugar level just high enough not to crash, but not high enough to keep it from dipping. And when you think about it, if I had been running low for long periods of time, the liver at some point would raise the blood sugar in late response, probably during the night while I was asleep.  This is not related to retinopathy.

    Since 1992, I've made plans to accommodate myself at those events where food and juice have not been easily accessible.  Or when I know I'm in the thick of it for several hours, like the finish line at Boston Marathon, where I'm helping athletes exit the finish line area and get to press conferences, medical, drug testing, etc.  These are times when I can't depend on routine, but need to know and realize when food is available eat, then bring something with you and realize high blood sugar readings will not be the issue on those days! 

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    It feels so counter intuitive, but if I set aside my desire for routine and go with the flow, often not blousing and lowering basal and eat small snacks frequently, I'm good to go!  On those days I run my own kind of marathon and like a marathon it takes prep and experience!

     

    By the way, I have no signs of retinopathy! Not bad for 39 years and counting!