Incapacitated brittle diabetic subjects are a small subset of insulin-dependent diabetic individuals who are unable to maintain a normal lifestyle because of frequent disruptions secondary to severe hypergly-cernie and/or hypoglycemic episodes. Thirty incapacitated patients were referred for evaluation because the cause of their diabetic instability could not be determined by their personal physicians despite extensive patient training in correct diabetes management, frequent hospitalizations for observation, and multiple diagnostic testing. From the 30 patients, a diagnostic algorithm was developed (described in the companion article) from which the etiology of brittle diabetes could be established in 29. This article provides the clinical characteristics of each of the 30 patients, a description of the etiologie categories of brittle diabetes, and the clinical follow-up from the time that the etiologie diagnosis was established and treatment recommended. Although extensive medical records were sent with each patient, without prospective objective testing under rigidly controlled conditions, the correct etiologie diagnosis would not have been evident from the clinical presentation of the patient. Of equal importance in identifying the etiology of brittle diabetes was the acceptance and cooperation of the referring physician in providing close follow-up and repeat insulin challenge testing when necessary. In this referred patient population, eight subjects had factitious disease, eight were malingering, seven had communication deficits, two had gastroparesis, two had systemic insulin resistance, two had miscellaneous causes of brittle diabetes, and one patient remained undiagnosed. Using a prospective algorithmic approach to determine the etiology of brittle diabetes, not only is the cause of diabetic instability almost always identifiable, but a significant improvement in lifestyle is achieved in greater than 50% of the incapacitated individuals.

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