June 24, 2017
Discussion on Dawn Phenomenon
As a person with type 2 diabetes, the following does affect me, but most of the time I have avoided it with adjustments to my insulin. The biggest aid has been splitting my long acting insulin into two doses per the doctors instructions.
The dawn phenomenon is a normal, natural rise in blood sugar that occurs in the early morning hours, between roughly 4 and 8 a.m. The shift in blood sugar levels happens as a result of hormonal changes in the body.
All people experience the dawn phenomenon to one level or another, which can vary day by day. People without diabetes may never notice it happening, as a normal body's insulin response adjusts for the rise without intervention.
A person with diabetes is more likely to experience symptoms from the rise in blood sugar levels, however.
How does it affect people with diabetes?
Dawn phenomenon is a normal rise in blood sugar released by the liver. The release happens as the person's body is preparing to wake for the day.
The rise in blood sugar is normally handled with insulin. For people with diabetes, insulin is not produced in high enough quantities, or the body is unable to use the insulin properly.
As a result, a person with diabetes will feel the effects of having high sugar levels in the blood.
These effects can include: faintness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, disorientation, feeling tired, and extreme thirst.
Managing the dawn phenomenon
Managing blood sugar levels is nothing new to most people with diabetes. A combination of diet, exercise, and medication often help keep the symptoms and problems under control.
In the case of dawn phenomenon, there are some additional changes that may help prevent issues caused by the spike in blood sugar.
Some steps people with diabetes can take to manage the dawn phenomenon include:
• changing medication entirely or making adjustments with a doctor on existing medication
• avoiding skipping meals or medication doses
• avoiding carbohydrates around bedtime
• taking medication closer to bedtime and not at dinner time
Other steps include eating dinner earlier in the evening. After dinner, some light physical activity, such as going for a walk, jogging, or yoga, is encouraged.
It is likely that a person with diabetes will experience high morning blood sugar levels from time to time. Occasional, mild issues from dawn phenomenon are not too worrisome. However, if the frequency becomes much more regular, then it's time to call a doctor.
If blood sugar levels spike too high as a result of dawn phenomenon, the effects can range from mild to a life-threatening medical emergency.
Some complications that a person with diabetes may experience as a result of dawn phenomenon include:
• nerve damage
• damage to blood vessels
• organ damage
• ketoacidosis, an extremely dangerous buildup of acid in the bloodstream
People who experience repeated high blood sugar levels due to dawn phenomenon should see a doctor to prevent these consequences.
Do options differ between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Differences in dealing with dawn phenomenon depends more on the individual person than what type of diabetes they have or what their treatment plan is.
A person with type 1 diabetes may adjust the dosage or type of insulin to account for any changes overnight. In other cases where the person wears an insulin pump, they may adjust the pump to deliver extra insulin in the morning.