Signs & Symptoms of a Diabetic Coma


A diabetic coma is a serious complication of diabetes in which the body lapses into a state of unconsciousness. The risk of experiencing a diabetic coma is small, but the condition can be fatal if it's not untreated. A diabetic coma can occur when the body’s blood-sugar level remains unbalanced for a prolonged period, as in hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia and ketoacidosis. The symptoms of a diabetic coma depend on the condition causing it.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the body’s blood-sugar (glucose) level is too low. A diabetic coma can occur if the level stays too low for too long. According to the American Diabetes Association, symptoms of dangerously low blood sugar include shakiness, dizziness, hunger, sweating and pale skin color. Other common symptoms are headache, sudden irritability, clumsiness, jerky movements and seizure. Persons with hypoglycemia often exhibit confusion, have difficulty paying attention and have tingling sensations about the mouth.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia is a condition in which the body’s blood-sugar level is too high. Symptoms of hyperglycemia include excessive thirst, frequent urination, high levels of sugar in the urine and fatigue. Weight loss often occurs, despite a significant increase in appetite. If left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to ketoacidosis, a forerunner to diabetic coma.

Symptoms of Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis occurs when the blood sugar level remains dangerously high for too long. When this happens, the body begins to use fat for energy because insufficient amounts of insulin prevent it from being able to use glucose, the body’s natural energy source. When the body uses fat for energy, it releases chemicals called ketones into the blood. A high level of ketones in the blood causes high acidity, which upsets the body’s chemical balance, resulting in ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is a serious condition that can result in diabetic coma or even death. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fruity-smelling breath. Other symptoms include deep, rapid breathing, confusion and, finally, unconsciousness.

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