Uncontrolled diabetes might be caused by 'thy thyroid'

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 6/14/2018, 11:57 a.m.
During my practice of medicine in the ‘hood, my family and I lived above my office.
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During my practice of medicine in the ‘hood, my family and I lived above my office. They helped me give service to my neighbors and patients. My wife was my sidekick and kept things on an even keel. My children cleaned and kept the office in top notch condition. I hired many high school students to serve as secretaries in the office. As the neighborhood doctor, I was on call 24/7, 365.

As long as my car was in the driveway, folks knew where to find me and they did. I recall, one time during a heavy snowstorm, I received a call from a patient. I told the patient that because of the heavy snow, I could not get my car out of the driveway. The patient responded by saying, family members would pick me up and bring me home, which they did.

This introduction leads me to a story that happened on a cold, snowy winter night when I was called to see a patient who was dying at home. When I got to the house, after slipping and sliding in the snow, I was welcomed into a warm home. The person who had called me, related that her sister who had relocated from Washington, D.C. was terribly ill and the sister had come to live with the caller in the final days.

The caller further told me that her sister had severe diabetes that could not be controlled by medications prescribed by her physician. The caller then led me into a room where her sister laid on a spotless white bed with candles at the head and foot.

The patient was pale and motionless. After examining her, and getting a medical history, I decided that this patient with poorly controlled diabetes might be a victim of hyperthyroidism. When this condition accompanies diabetes, it is often difficult to control the blood glucose. Because the caller did not want the patient to be hospitalized, I had to make a decision on the basis of her medical history and examination that I would treat her at home with a medication that is used to treat hyperthyroidism. Over a period of several days as I visited and observed the patient, she began to take on a new life. She started sitting up and taking nourishment. Her sister was so elated to see this resurrection that she praised God for the healing.

As the snow melted and spring returned, this lovely lady who had come to die was blossoming like a daffodil. She ultimately was feeling so well that she was able to return to her home in Washington, D.C. and resume her previous lifestyle.

I tell this story only to relay the importance of getting a good history and performing an adequate examination. This medical story also reveals how important it is to look for other medical conditions that can effect poorly controlled diabetes. If “thy thyroid” is over active, which is a medical condition known as hyperthyroidism, it might complicate the control of diabetes.

After several weeks, I received a letter from the patient, who was under the care of her physician and was ready to revisit her sister, who had planned a cruise for both of them.