Mistaking diabetes for tuberculosis

minute read
September 19, 2022
A chest x-ray.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story.

My grandma is currently 72 and suffering from sugar (what we Indians usually call diabetes).

However, when her symptoms first appeared, we didn’t know it was diabetes. In fact, she was initially misdiagnosed.

The misdiagnosis

It started in the early 90s. My grandma was suffering from an unknown problem, and my grandfather took her to see a doctor. The senior doctor wasn’t available, so a fresher doctor and compounder said he could see my grandma instead.

My grandfather agreed, and the fresher doctor conducted a checkup on my grandma. He concluded that my grandma was suffering from tuberculosis (TB).

With his diagnosis of TB, the fresher doctor then performed some further procedures and prescribed a series of medicines that my grandma had to take regularly.

My grandparents returned home, and my grandma started to take all her medicines. But after a month her health had gone from bad to worse. Her body was weak as hell, and it felt like she was approaching death.

Very worried, my grandfather took her to a renowned hospital and had the doctors take another look at her.

They told him to stop her dose of medicines immediately as she definitely did not have TB. What she was actually suffering from was diabetes.

Getting back on track

To get my grandma healthy again, she first had to be admitted to the hospital for a few months to recover from the side effects of taking the wrong medicines.

When she was well enough to return home, we needed to make some changes.

My grandma is very fond of eating sweets. She loves to eat jalebi, without any special occasion.

We tried very hard to convince her not to eat so many sweets as we knew it had a bad impact on her health. But every month when her report arrived, her sugar level was over 300 mg/dl, and sometimes even over 400 mg/dl (a nondiabetic’s sugar level is typically less than 100 mg/dl).

Every time we saw her report, our home doctor would scold her. He would also scold us and tell us to have control over her diet.

After observing no change and continually high sugar levels, the doctor told her she couldn’t even eat rice (this is because rice is mostly carbohydrates, which the body breaks down into sugar).

To support my grandma, we decided that not just her but the whole family would stop eating anything which contains sugar.

From that day on, we followed a sugarless routine. Even my grandfather, who was very fond of having tea with extra sugar, started drinking sugar-free tea.

Despite this, my grandma’s body continued to get slowly weaker. For us Indians, rice is the most prominent and effective part of our diet. Not having it for so long, my grandma was losing energy and strength. So we started eating rice again but in small, precise amounts.

And with my entire family supporting my grandma and not eating extra sugar with tea and sweets, we were able to manage her diabetes and improve her sugar levels.

Graphic of a male profile picture.
Ankit Raj
Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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