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What is diabetic coma?

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Diabetic coma is a serious, possibly dangerous complication linked with diabetes. This can cause loss of consciousness where the individual could not wake up without medical care. Most cases of diabetic coma occur among those with type 1 diabetes but those with the other type are also at risk.

If an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, it is vital to be familiar with the causes and symptoms of diabetic coma.

What are the main causes?

It is important to note that diabetic coma arises if the level of blood sugar is out of control. The 3 main causes include:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis – this occurs if the body lacks insulin and utilizes fat instead of glucose for energy
  • Severe low blood sugar or hypoglycemia – there is not enough glucose in the blood
  • Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome in type 2 diabetes – this syndrome only affects those with type 2 diabetes which occurs if the blood sugar to too high

What are the indications?

Remember that there is no precise symptom unique to diabetic coma. The symptoms tend to vary depending on the type of diabetes an individual is diagnosed with.

Remember that there is no precise symptom unique to diabetic coma. The symptoms tend to vary depending on the type of diabetes an individual is diagnosed with.

The condition is often preceded by a peak of several indications. There are also variances in the symptoms between high and low blood sugar. The indications that an individual might be suffering from low blood sugar and at risk for progressing to severe low blood sugar include:

  • Shakiness
  • Abrupt fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Intense and abrupt hunger
  • Confusion
  • Sweating or clammy palms
  • Dizziness
  • Speaking difficulties
  • Diminished motor coordination

Indications that one is at risk for diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome include:

  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • High blood sugar level

Indications that one is at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • Increased urination, thirst and dry mouth
  • Itchy skin
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Ketones in the urine or blood
  • Confusion
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Abdominal pain with or without vomiting
  • Rapid breathing

When to seek medical attention

It is vital to measure the blood sugar if suffering from any unusual symptoms to prevent progression to diabetic coma. The condition is considered as an emergency that necessitates immediate medical care in a healthcare facility.

The individual should wear a medical alert bracelet so that others are aware of the condition. Once the individual is treated, he/she can regain consciousness once the blood sugar level returns to normal.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on diabetic coma is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage diabetic emergencies, register for a first aid and CPR course with Red Deer First Aid.

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