Diabetes and College

Hi all,

After 19 years of this, you'd think I'd have it down pat, but it's still throwing me for a loop.

During puberty it seemed like no matter what I did, my a1c loved to hang out around the high 8 to low 9's range, even with a pump. The endo insisted that once hormones leveled out, so would my blood sugars. Since getting to college, they've decreased (last few a1c's in the 7s), but still aren't great. In November I started on birth control, and since then it's been out of control. My endo raised my basals, i:c ratio, and correction factor last week. For the next 48 hours I'd bounce from 40s to 400s and back again, and now I'm back to consistent 200s, 300s, etc. We've tried changing exercise and diet, too, with no difference (seriously. No food for 24 hours and I never dropped below 180???) This has been going on more or less since November, and my a1c is steadily going up. I asked the endo about switching birth controls, but she said all of them cause problems and to learn to treat the effects. The last few weeks it's been majorly impacting my performance at school (went from almost straight As the last couple years to a high test score of 76 in the last four weeks). My memory seems shot, and I can't focus, but increasing my insulin doesn't seem to be doing much, either. I've not consistently struggled like this before, and hadn't really told my professors about the diabetes and don't want to sound like I'm using it as an excuse.


Any ideas? Did anyone else find a birth control that DOESN'T wreak havoc on blood sugars? Anyone else see really weird numbers in college?

I cannot speak on terms of birth control, but as far as college I can add in. My BS numbers were all over the place in college as well, however, I have to be honest and say most of it was due to negligence. I got my act around by about my senior year. I too did not want to bring any of this up with my professors because I did not want to act like it is an excuse, especially since I was doing it to myself. However, I got to know a few professors very well, a few on a personal basis, and when they found out I was diabetic, not only were they very cooperative, but they all understood why I was kind of shifty in my performance in school, without me saying anything. I would say your best bet would be to go to your professors during office hours and just tell them whats going on. I know its hard to imagine but most professors are human and very sympathetic. Best of luck to you.



I might be wrong but I believe it is the estrogen in the birth control that messes with the blood sugars. I recall seeing a commercial recently for the "lowest estrogen" pill, so maybe that could help since it would be less hormones. If I am totally wrong then I'm sorry, however I also wanted to add that I am on the pill called "Apri" and it doesn't seem to do much to my blood sugars. Everyone is different though, so you might just react to the hormones a lot differently? Good luck finding something that works!

Yeah, I'm finally biting the bullet after seeing my grades drop three letter grades and been talking to professors this week. So far, they're sympathetic, but not exactly helpful. And go figure... I'm in an endocrinology class, and that professor's the least understanding, insisting that I'm just not taking my insulin like I should. Is there really such a disconnect between the academic and clinical?

I have no idea what my BS numbers were when I was in college. We didn' t have blood testers or A1Cs back then.  The ONLY time my BS was checked was when I went to the VA Hospital once every 3 months or so for my appt with a Physician's Assistant! 

But college was great fun.  I'd go back to that any day.

My advice - Have fun !!

Basically your high blood sugar is causing your lack of brain power. I went from 4.0 to 3.4 within a semester because my high blood sugar reeked havoc on my memory. What happens is when your blood sugar is consistently high? Something happens to the chemicals in your brain and it makes it hard for you to concentrate. Your body is trying to fuel everything and your brain is sometimes the casualty. This is embarrassing, but I even had problems remembering where my classes were that I had been in all year. I once asked a professor why he moved his office; to which he replied that he hadn't, I had just come into the building on a different side. *embarrassed* Later we found out why...crazy high blood sugar and DKA. Also, alcohol consumption and poor diet can be a factor in the sudden loss of brain power. Freshman 15 being the culprit. For T1D's it's more like the freshman 25. Anyway I hope this helps, and let us know if you need anymore help.  Keep your chin up and your communication lines open with you endo.

Yes, there is a MAJOR disconnect. If you are not diabetic you have no point of reference. You can talk something to death, but until you have actually experienced it nothing you can say will ever come close to true understanding.

I also had high a1c's due to puberty (8's and 9's from around 13-16), but it didn't cause me any memory or academic problems. Do you think its the stress of of dealing with the D that's affecting your grades too? That would be totally understandable!

I've also had problem with hormone-based birth control and BG's, to the point that I try to avoid them b/c it's not worth it. Talk to your dr about other options. When I was nursing my son after childbirth, my OB gave me those very low estrogen pills. Nursing really lowers your BG's, so I can't really say whether they affect BG's as much. BUT, per my OB, you have to be VERY careful taking them or they don't work. So, if you skip a day or even take them at very different times, you could get pregnant.

[quote user="Dan"]

I cannot speak on terms of birth control,


Well, you're no help, are you? LOL

Have u thought about an IUD? Instead of the pill.


I am way past the pueberty thing and had diabetes for over 20 years.  I went back to college now, ( I'm 31), and find my self harer to control.  Like someone else said I thinks it's the less paying attention to detail with numbers and stuff.  My grades are slipping a bit too.  When I first went back to school i was OK, but It is getting a bit overwhelming, and during stressfull test times, it is hard to think which is more important, making sure my numbers are in control, or studying to pass this test!!  Its hard.

College was a very difficult time for me and my diabetes.  It was my first time away from home so I found myself without my mother constantly reminding me to test and take my insulin, which lead to missing BG checks and forgetting to bolus, which lead to bad numbers. 

College itself doesn't lend itself to good control just based on the lifestyle.  Late nights studying, little sleep, stress of papers, finals, group projects, schedule changes, meal variability (and my cafeteria didn't readily provide any nutrition facts), pizza at 3 am or any time for that matter, and partying all can cause your BGs to go crazy. 

It sounds like you were doing okay with the college life though, so good for you.  As far as the birth control issue goes, I was never told that they would affect my BGs and have been on mine for so many years I don't remember if they did, although there is a very definite point in my A1c graph where puberty hit!  The one thing I've been told about being on the pill is that diabetics should avoid brands that have a sugar pill as the last week.  Not sure how much sugar those little things could realistically hold, but I've always been on a pill that has an iron pill at the end of the month.  Maybe if you aren't already on one of these you could look into that as an option as well.

Sorry, not really much help to you, but felt the urge to tell you you aren't alone in the college ups and downs!

Hello there. I am on the depo shot and it doesn't seem to wreak havoc on my numbers. However, I had already been on depo for years before I was diagnosed so I don't really have anything to compare it to. I have also heard about other women having crazy numbers during their period, which I don't have to deal with because I haven't had a period in years. I love depo...I will be sad if I ever have to go off it! Lol

hey there!

tell your doctor you want to try a low-hormone bc. i'm on one that's pretty low-hormone, and it doesn't seem to affect my blood sugars. maybe give that a try?

good luck!

[quote user="2nfinity"]

I'm in an endocrinology class, and that professor's the least understanding, insisting that I'm just not taking my insulin like I should. Is there really such a disconnect between the academic and clinical?


Unfortunately, "yes".  And as Bugs Bunny would have said, "What a Maroon!" 

I was diagnosed in college, and my biochem prof wouldn't accept the excuse to miss an exam, even though I called him from a hospital bed.  My genetics prof was much more understanding; but probably only because his son was a type 1 diabetic!

Thats ashame Cindy! That professor just doesn't have any compassion. I got diagnosed during finals week my sophomore year and had to miss a couple of my finals. My one teacher let me make it up when I got back and the other teacher let me not have to take it at all! Since I had a solid A in the class and was a good student, he let me slide =) it was very nice!!!

Pretty much from my own experiences (graduated from college in 2008)--You eat crap all the time trying find a quick snack here and there between classes and studying and not sitting down for a meal and when you do it's never consistent. This really messed me up! I wanted to stay up late and party on the weekends and sleep in and that obviously never works. And as far as birth control I would suggest the Nuva-Ring. It's easy and I've never had a problem. Being under so much stress already it's hard when your numbers are high cause then you feel even worse. My best suggestion is to have a set schedule of when to eat, exercise, and sleep....everything else will fall into place. College is the best time of your life--soo much fun and so much learning!! I always loved school, best of luck to you:)

I can say from experience with all of these issues, I have been on birth control for years and I have used 4 different brands adn sadly they all effect blood sugar levels, there isn't any avoiding that, but it is possible to work on matching it up.  How I dealt with that aspect of blood sugar was I did a fasting check three times, one when I took my pill in the morning one in the middle of the day and one at night before I went to bed, I checked every two hours I was able to see how the pill affected me and when, so I was able to adjust my basal rate of my pump accordingly.

As for being in college, let me tell you stress as I'm sure you know can hugely change blood sugar levels, don't feel like telling your professors is using it as an excuse.  I went through three semesters of just trying to manage on my own and it didn't work out so well.  Simply have a conversation with your professor and explain, if you are having a high or low blood sugar concentration won't happen at all, so tests will be off totally.  Every professor I have come into contact with has been totally cool about it.. 

Also, talking to others who have experienced the same things and finding out how they cope.  I would always check my blood sugar before and after classes that way you can see if a certain class can change your blood sugar, then you know which days and which times you should be extra careful.  don't let your diabetes control you education, or how well you do, haha let it know who runs your body and mind.  Best of luck!

My numbers actually improved in college, mostly because I was more active than ever before, so I'm not much help there. I don't know what pill you were taking before, but I just started taking Loestrin24 Fe birth control. It has very low doses of hormones and so far I haven't seen a noticeable rise in my blood sugar.

I had crazy numbers in college, but that was mostly because I was irresponsible and "didn't have time to care." I'm in great control now, though (at 25), and I am on the same birth control I have been using for almost 10 years. It's called Kariva, and it's the generic for Mircette. It's a different formula than many of the common HBCPs. I don't know if it would make a difference, but it's worth asking your doctor about.

Also, are you on a cgm? I know that's made a huge difference for me since I started using it two months ago. I found that there simply isn't enough data to tweak problems when you're only getting a maximum of 10 readings per day. The cgm gives a reading every 5 minutes (so 288/day), which makes it much easier to see trends. Just a thought.