A diabetic coma is a life-threatening diabetes complication that causes unconsciousness. It can occur when blood sugar gets too high or dangerously low. Usually it is most common in individuals who are elderly, chronically ill or disabled. Left untreated, a diabetic coma can be fatal. Luckily, there are safety steps that can be taken to help prevent a diabetic coma.
Before developing a diabetic coma, an individual may experience signs and symptoms of high blood sugar or low blood sugar.
High blood pressure signs and symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Sickness and vomiting
- Foul smelling breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain
- Racing heartbeat
Low blood pressure signs and symptoms:
- Shaking and trembling
- Increased appetite
- Racing heartbeat
- Difficulty speaking
Causes of a diabetic coma are due to blood sugar levels being too low or too high. This can cause various conditions in an individual, all leading to a diabetic coma. The three main causes are known as:
- Diabetic ketoacidosis: A dangerous complication of diabetes caused by a lack of insulin in the body. Diabetic ketoacidosis is most common in individuals who have type 1 diabetes, but it can also affect people who have type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.
- Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome: A serious condition caused by extremely high blood sugar levels. Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome is most common in middle-aged and older individuals who have type 2 diabetes.
- Hypoglycemia: A serious condition caused by extremely low blood sugar levels.
Factors associated with an increased risk of a diabetic coma include the following:
- Type 1 diabetes (Low blood sugar- diabetic ketoacidosis)
- Type 2 diabetes (High blood sugar- diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome)
- Lack of insulin (can quickly lead to diabetic ketoacidosis)
- Lack of managing diabetes (can lead to complications among an individual’s blood sugar levels)
- Health condition, trauma or surgery (heart failure, kidney disease)
- Alcohol consumption (can lead to drop in blood sugar levels)
- Use of drugs (can lead to severe increase in blood sugar levels)
If left untreated, complications arising from of a diabetic coma may include:
- Permanent brain damage
The type of treatment for a diabetic coma depends on where sugar level is too high or too low.
Treatments for high blood sugar levels include:
- Taking intravenous fluids to restore water to the tissues
- Taking potassium, sodium or phosphate supplements to help cell function
- Taking insulin to help absorb the glucose in the blood
- Treatment infections as soon as possible
Treatment for low blood sugar levels include:
- Getting a Glucagon injection to help raise blood sugar level and blood glucose levels
A few recommendations for preventing a diabetic coma may include:
- Monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels (glucose monitor)
- Taking medication when necessary
- Checking urine for ketones when blood sugar is high
- Having a glucagon kit and fast-acting sugar resources on hand
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace with valuable information