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Diabetes Coma

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It’s a life threatening condition found in people with Diabetes mellitus when blood glucose spikes up to dangerously high levels (hyperglycaemia), i.e. above 17 mmol/L. Diabetes coma also occurs due to abnormal drop in blood sugar (severe hypoglycaemia) which could be lower than 3.5mmol/L.

Although it’s reversible and can be treated, the patient becomes unresponsive to sound, sight and other types of external stimuli for a certain period.

Symptoms of Diabetes Coma

Under conditions of high blood sugar, a person who seeps into diabetes coma will experience:

Under conditions of low blood sugar, a person who seeps into diabetes coma will experience:

  • Trembling, nervousness
  • Weakness, fatigue,
  • Nausea, drowsiness
  • Terrible hunger pangs
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritation, confusions
  • Altered behaviour
  • Faltered speech

The 3 common causes of Diabetes Coma

1.Diabetic ketoacidosis coma: It occurs in people with type 1 diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes mellitus when ketone bodies accumulate inside the body due to insufficient insulin in the body. The fat gets converted to ketone which makes the blood highly acidic. The following circumstances trigger the risk:

  • Missed dose of insulin
  • Infection in the body

2.Diabetic hyperosmolar coma: It’s a hyperglycaemic condition in people with Type 2 diabetes. It occurs when the person:

  • Skips medicines for diabetes, more commonly insulin
  • Takes in sugar rich food and drinks
  • Reduced intake of diuretic medicines
  • Suffers from infections or any illness like pneumonia
  • Undergoes severe dehydration due to insufficient intake of fluids

3.Diabetic hypoglycaemic coma: Loss of consciousness due to severe hypoglycaemia (below 3.5 mmol/l). It happens when the person under diabetes medication

  • Undergoes depletion of glycogen due to exercise
  • Has insulin overdose
  • Consumes alcohol in empty stomach

Diagnosis of Diabetic Coma

It’s indeed a situation of medical emergency wherein doctors first look into the medical history of the patient then conduct a physical exam. Then a blood test is suggested immediately to determine the blood sugar level and quantitative analysis of creatinine, nitrogen, sodium, phosphate, potassium and ketone bodies.

Your doctor might also conduct tests for urine and other types of cardio tests depending on the implications of the symptoms.

How to Deal With the Situation?

Patients with diabetes type 1 or diabetes type 2 must not wait for this situation to arise. If you sense any of those aforementioned symptoms, then make sure you call in your emergency number immediately or rush to the nearest health care service. In many cases, a person becomes unconsciousness all of a sudden and therefore, failing to get treatment at the right time leads to death. Therefore, we suggest you to not let your blood glucose level spike up above 70mmol/L or let it fall below 3.5 mmol/L. Consult with your doctor and take every precaution to avoid a coma attack.

Treatment of Diabetes Coma

The treatment for high blood sugar and low blood sugar differs.

  • If the blood glucose tested is too high then insulin is administered to manage the glucagon levels.
  • Intravenous fluids, potassium and sodium are given to patients for dealing with ketoacidiotic coma
  • Glucagon injections are given  to control hypoglycaemic coma
  • Several other medicines might also be suggested by your doctor to control the associated symptoms
  • Your doctor will continue parallel treatment for any kind of illness or infection

Last but not the least you have to be very cautious about your health because a little bit of negligence on your part can push you to the mouth of death. So, follow your doctor’s advice without fail. With medical treatment and cooperation of patient for improving the health, one can recover from diabetes coma.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 06, 2015