Diabetic Coma, Keeping the Symptoms Straight
Diabetic coma occurs when one loses consciousness due to hypoglycemia (when the blood glucose level is dangerously low) or hyperglycemia (when the blood glucose level is dangerously high). This can be lethal when left untreated. When you lose consciousness you will be unable to respond to any type of stimulus. No amount of signs or sounds or a high stimulus tax package will wake you up.
The thought of losing consciousness due to diabetes is scary stuff, more scary than the auto-submarine chase in a James Bond movie but there is good news. The occurrence is small and we can prevent it from happening. How? Just follow the diabetes treatment plan you developed with your doctor and the rest of the health care team.
There will be symptoms so you will be forewarned. With hyperglycemia, you will urinate frequently, your mouth will feel dry and will get the feeling of being nauseous and vomiting may come into the picture. You'll also experience shortness of breathe and excessive thirst.
What are the warning signs for hypoglycemia?
- Nervousness and shakiness
What are the risk factors of a diabetic coma? Any person with diabetes has a high risk to pass out. People who do not monitor their blood glucose level or do not even know they have diabetes are more at risk. Remember that this is a medical emergency and one has to seek for medical help. If you have already lost consciousness someone else has to get emergency medical help.
What are the causes of this loss of consciousness due to diabetes? A wild swing of either too high or too low of blood glucose level when prolonged may lead to some conditions that could result in loss of consciousness. Let's discuss each condition so we can try to avoid them.
- Hypoglycemia - The brain needs glucose to continue functioning and since it does not manufacture nor store this, and if the blood sugar continues to be low, it can make you lose consciousness. This is common among those who take too much insulin and skip meals and exercise too much or drink too much alcohol.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis can occur when the cells in the muscles get starved for energy. What follows here is that the body may break down the fat that is stored. This could lead to the formation of toxic acids called ketones. If untreated, this could lead to loss of consciousness. While this is more common among type 1 diabetics, this could also occur to those who have type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.
- Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome is the third condition that could lead to loss of consciousness. This can happen when the blood sugar level goes up to 600 milligrams per deciliter. When the blood glucose level gets too high like this, the blood becomes syrupy and thick. The extra sugar will then pass from the blood to the urine and can draw a great amount of fluid from the body. Such condition then if left untreated can lead to diabetic coma.
Diabetic Coma, the Symptoms and Warning signs
Diabetic coma symptoms, if the sugar level is low are fainting, dizziness, fatigue, rapid heart rate, and polyphagia or extreme hunger. If the sugar level is high, the symptoms are polydipsia or extreme thirst, fatigue, dehydration and polyuria or excessive urination. Those experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis may show labored breathing otherwise known as Kussmaul breathing.
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