Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome is a serious condition caused by extremely high blood sugar levels. In most cases, it occurs in people with type 2 diabetes and it is often triggered by an illness or an infection.

The condition causes the body to try to remove the excess blood sugar through urine. However, if left untreated, diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome can lead to life threatening dehydration. Emergency medical attention may be necessary.



Symptoms of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome include:


  • Extremely high blood sugar levels
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased urination
  • Warm, dry skin
  • Fever
  • Drowsiness, confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Vision loss
  • Convulsions
  • Coma



Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome may be caused by:


  • Illness or infection
  • Not following a diabetes treatment plan or an inadequate treatment plan
  • Certain medications (water pills – diuretics)


In some cases, undiagnosed diabetes leads to diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.


Risk factors

Risk factors for developing diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome include:


  • Type 2 diabetes: Having type 2 diabetes and not monitoring the blood sugar levels increases the risk of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.
  • Age: People at the age of 65 or older have a higher risk of developing the condition.
  • Another chronic health condition (congestive heart failure or kidney disease)
  • Infection (pneumonia, urinary tract infection or a virus)
  • Certain medications (corticosteroids, diuretics and some anti-seizure medications)



Complications of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome may lead to:


  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Death (diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome can be fatal without prompt treatment)



Appropriate daily monitoring of blood sugar levels and diabetes can help prevent the development of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.


  • Recognizing the symptoms of high blood sugar: Being aware of any signs or symptoms of high blood sugar as well as conditions such as an illness or an infection that may lead to diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.
  • Monitoring the blood sugar level: Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is necessary, especially when one is sick.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids when sick
  • Following the diabetes management plan: Eating nutritious meals, regular exercise and taking the prescribed medications.
  • Educating family members, friends and co-workers of the early symptoms of blood sugar extremes and to seek medical attention in an emergency.
  • Wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace: It provides medical information to others if one loses consciousness.
  • Staying current on vaccinations: Annual flu shots and possible the pneumococcal vaccine to protect against certain forms of pneumonia.