I like to test my medical knowledge against the representations of various diseases and symptoms on the medical drama shows on TV. Sometimes they get them wrong. There are certain diseases that are very popular in these TV dramas. Brain tumors are one. A lot of people have heart attacks. These scenes are very dramatic. They show the pseudo doctors doing CPR and electric shock to revive the patient. Having been trained in advanced first aid, I like to see if they get it right.
Another popular disease on television is diabetes. I haven’t watched any medical shows for a while, but they used to get the symptoms of low and high blood sugar confused all of the time. The patient would be unconscious or the symptoms would come on rapidly and the doctor or some interested passerby would yell: “He’s got diabetes! We need some insulin quick!” The only thing about that is the person is probably suffering from low blood sugar and the last thing in the world that he needs is insulin.
If he needed insulin his blood sugar would be high. Symptoms from high blood sugar vary slightly from those of low blood sugar and come on over a period of hours or days. If the symptoms come on quickly, then he’s probably got low blood sugar not high. And he needs sugar, not insulin.
Another misrepresentation of the effects of diabetes was on one of the old medical shows. I think it was Marcus Welby. It was a story about a young teenager who was discovered to have diabetes and became really rebellious, as they sometimes do. He refused to take his insulin and would go around yelling: “On or off? On or off?” to taunt his parents. He soon became blind from not controlling his diabetes.
Now diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, but that is usually after years of having the disease and either not treating it or treating it poorly. A young teenager wouldn’t develop this complication for some time, even if he had the disease for several years without treating it.
And now CNN has revealed another condition that is misrepresented about 80% of the time on medical shows: seizures. According to CNN, ” “People who are watching these television shows and don’t know how to respond might get the false impression of how to provide first aid, and, when they’re trying to help someone having a seizure, actually do some harm to them by stuff they learned on television,” said researcher Andrew Moeller of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.”
Seems that the shows show somebody trying to hold down the seizure victim, stop the involuntary movements, or putting something in the victim’s mouth to “keep him from biting his tongue.”
Proper care for a patient who is having a seizure is to clear the area of dangerous objects, make them comfortable by putting them on their side, and making sure that they don’t hurt themselves. That’s all you need to do. They have to just ride it out.