Student uses the web to diagnose type 1 diabetes following dramatic weight loss

Tue, 03 Jun 2014
A student with type 1 diabetes has revealed how he self-diagnosed his condition using the internet after suffering a serious dip in health and feeling like a "walking dead body".

Yehuda Levy, 21, from New York, was studying for exams when he began to experience strange symptoms like fatigue, extreme thirst and nausea. Within a month, he had lost 25 pounds (1.78 stones) in weight, his vision became blurry and he was urinating up to 30 times a day.

Speaking to America's ABC News, the Yeshiva University student said it was only at this stage when he decided to take action. One morning in early January he searched the web to find out more about his symptoms and determine what was wrong with him.

The result was a potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication of type 1 diabetes that occurs when the body has no insulin to use and starts to break down fatty acids for energy, producing acidic ketone bodies in the process.

After doing more research it soon became clear that he had type 1 diabetes. Despite his roommate remaining optimistic and telling him not to worry, the Manhattan-based student decided to purchase a blood glucose meter from his local pharmacy to find out for sure. He used the device and was soon informed that his blood glucose level was over 600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or 33 millimoles per litre (mmol/L).

A quick web search of this figure scared him with the words coma, fatal and deadly. He refrained from heading straight to hospital, but once he did eventually arrive - with the advice and persuasion of his local dry cleaners - his blood sugar had reached 700 mg/dL (39 mmol/L) and he was forced to remain in hospital where his condition was officially diagnosed.

Dr. Ronald Tamler, director at the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center in New York City, warned that Levy's self-diagnosis was a combination of smart searching on the web and luck.

"If you think about it, he put in 'frequent urination,'" he said. "Well, one condition that can give you frequent urination can be a urinary tract infection, for instance. What a lot of these websites suggest is to drink cranberry juice for a urinary tract infection…he would have been driven to do the exact opposite of what would have been good for him."

Dr Tamler, who eventually became Levy's endocrinologist, stressed that the best thing to do in this situation is to consult a doctor first.
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