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A to Z of Health

‘There are ants in my urine!’

To see ants coming out with urine is indeed creepy. That is certainly not what I mean. Many individuals with diabetes (or high blood sugar) may have seen ants being attracted by their urine. Ants congregate near unflushed toilet bowls or toward spilled urine. Sometimes they are seen in hamper baskets with soiled underwear. These observations are indeed evidence of sugar being in the urine of these individuals, thanks to the efficient sugar-detecting capabilities of our tiny crawling friends.

Many times this may be the initial sign that blood sugar is abnormally elevated. Besides a routine analysis of the urine, any good doctor will advise a blood sugar test to make a diagnosis of diabetes. So do take a blood sugar test if you see ants in your urine and be sure to show the result to a doctor. Other tests may be needed depending on your doctor’s findings.

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Today, doctors have ways to lower high blood sugar (of course in people with diabetes) by allowing the excess sugar in the blood to spill out into the urine. This is possible through the use of drugs called gliflozins. When a diabetic takes this medication, it prevents the kidneys from reabsorbing sugar back into the blood. Hence sugar is thrown out into their urine in significant quantities. Understandably, they will also see ants being attracted by their urine. But fear not, this simply means the medication is working.

The effectivity of the gliflozins relies on normal functioning kidneys. People with mild to moderate kidney damage may still benefit, but surely not those with severe kidney failure. People with severe kidney disease are people who may no longer able to pass urine. Even though these medications have not been seen to harm the kidneys in any way, there is no point using them when the kidneys are already severely damaged.

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Finally, be aware that there are individuals who pass out sugar into their urine even though they do not have diabetes, nor are they taking drugs to make sugar spill into their urine. This is a rare condition called benign glycosuria by doctors. These individuals are usually not overweight despite of the fact that they love to eat—the excess of what they eat simply spills into their urine. They usually have long, healthy lives with few getting diabetes, high blood pressure and heart or brain disease. This may be the condition that everyone would like to have. And you can only know that if you are properly tested. The next time you see ants in your urine, see a doctor for a thorough checkup.

Dr. Richard Elwyn Fernando is the past president of Diabetes Philippines and the Philippine Association of Diabetes Educators. The A to Z of Health information advocacy is a joint initiative of a group of medical specialists and supported by AstraZeneca Philippines aimed at raising public awareness on various diseases and providing health information and updates to the healthcare community.

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TAGS: ants, blood sugar, diabetes, health and science, Urine
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