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Course: MCAT > Unit 2

Lesson 3: Foundation 3: Organ Systems

Medical case: Type 1 diabetes


A young boy is brought to the emergency department. His parents recently noticed that he has been drinking large amounts of water and urinating frequently. He then developed a minor cold last week, and over the past few days he has become very ill. This morning, his parents had a difficult time waking him. In the emergency department the boy’s blood glucose level is measured to be 527 mg/dL (normal: 60 – 125 mg/dL), and he is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus is an autoimmune disease that affects the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin. Since individuals with type 1 diabetes mellitus do not produce enough insulin, they are required to take insulin injections in order to properly regulate the body’s energy supply.
The boy recovers after a few days of treatment and is discharged home with prescription insulin, which he is told to take at bedtime and before each meal, as well as a glucose meter for monitoring his blood glucose levels from home. Two weeks later he returns to the emergency department, with a blood glucose level of 35 mg/dL (normal: 60 – 125 mg/dL). Figure 1 depicts his blood glucose measurements throughout the day prior to coming to the emergency department.
Figure 1 The boy’s blood glucose levels over the 24 hours prior to arriving in the emergency department
When the boy returns to the emergency department (11:00 PM), what is the likely cause of his blood sugar level?
Choose 1 answer: