If you go into a diabetic coma, you're alive — but you can't wake up or respond purposefully to sights, sounds or other types of stimulation. If it's not treated, a diabetic coma can result in death. Read on to learn more about the diabetic coma to Understand the symptoms, causes and treatments available for managing this condition.
Diabetic Coma Causes:
A diabetic coma, is what happens when a person with diabetes has a blood sugar level that becomes dangerously high (hyperglycemia) or low (hypoglycemia)
With hypoglycemia, blood sugar levels get below 54 mg/dL (which is considered severely low), and there’s not enough blood sugar for the brain’s most basic needs.
If you’re using an insulin pump, you have to check your blood sugar frequently. Insulin delivery can stop if the pump fails or if the tubing (catheter) becomes twisted or falls out of place. A lack of insulin can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.
When you’re sick or injured, blood sugar levels can change, sometimes significantly, increasing your risk of diabetic ketoacidosis and diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.
If you don’t monitor your blood sugar properly or take your medications as directed by your health care provider, you have a higher risk of developing long-term health problems and a higher risk of diabetic coma.
Sometimes, people with diabetes who also have an eating disorder choose not to use their insulin as they should, in the hope of losing weight. This is a dangerous, life-threatening thing to do, and it raises the risk of a diabetic coma.
Alcohol can have unpredictable effects on your blood sugar. Alcohol’s effects may make it harder for you to know when you’re having low blood sugar symptoms. This can increase your risk of a diabetic coma caused by hypoglycemia.
Illegal drugs, such as cocaine, can increase your risk of severe high blood sugar and conditions linked to diabetic coma
Symptoms of a Diabetic Coma :
The symptoms of a diabetic coma will vary depending on the cause. Here are some of the symptoms if it’s associated with severe hypoglycemia:
Diabetes-related coma symptoms associated with hyperglycemia include:
With severe hyperglycemia, it’s possible for the body to go into diabetic ketoacidosis, which can occur with or without a diabetic coma. This is when the body produces ketones, or excess blood acids as the liver starts to break down fat for fuel and produces ketones because the body doesn’t have enough insulin. Ketones can be monitored with a urine or blood test. They can reach dangerous, life-threatening levels. The symptoms above also are associated with high ketone levels. The fruity breath smell is because of the ketones produced, which have a fruity odor.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is more common among those with Type 1 diabetes but also can occur with Type 2 diabetes.
If it is not treated, a diabetic coma can lead to permanent brain damage and death.
What to Do for a Diabetic Coma :
Don’t try to give them anything by mouth as they could choke on it. Prompt treatment can help avoid brain damage and death.
If you’re with someone who appears to have high or low blood sugar and they still are awake, try to use a blood glucose monitor, also called a glucometer, to find out if they are hypo- or hyperglycemic.
If their blood sugar is low (70 mg/dL or below), then feed them 15 grams of carbohydrates as soon as possible. This could include:
- Half a can of regular soda, not diet.
- Half a glass of orange juice.
- About 3 teaspoons of granulated sugar or honey.
- Glucose tablets.
After administering the carbohydrates, wait 15 minutes and check their blood sugar level again.
Continue to repeat this until their glucose is in a more normal range or until the person you’re treating no longer has any symptoms.
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Diagnosing and Treating a Diabetic Coma:
Health care professionals will perform blood tests to measure things such as blood glucose, ketone levels and acidity of the blood
To help treat hypoglycemia, health care professionals will give electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, as well as hypertonic dextrose. These can help control blood sugar and maintain normal levels.
For hyperglycemia, health care professionals will replace any fluids lost to dehydration as well as electrolytes, insulin or any other supplemental medications.
A person who’s had a diabetes-related coma may require hospitalization for a few days to fully recover. With quick treatment, a full recovery from a diabetic coma is possible.
Preventing a Diabetic Coma:
The best way to prevent a diabetic coma is to keep your blood sugars as balanced as possible.