What's it like: To suffer a diabetic coma

About 305,000 adults in Oklahoma have been diagnosed with diabetes. Oklahoma has one of the highest diabetes death rates in the nation, and it's the sixth leading cause of death in Oklahoma.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 20, 2013

What is a diabetic coma?

One of the risks associated with diabetes is what's known as a diabetic coma. A person with diabetes might suffer from a diabetic coma if his or her blood sugar levels get too high, a condition known as hyperglycemia, or go too low, which is referred to as hypoglycemia. A diabetic coma can result because of complications related to either.

Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body's ability to produce and/or use insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form in Oklahoma, which has consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally for the prevalence of diabetes in the state.

About 305,000 adults in Oklahoma have been diagnosed with diabetes. Oklahoma has one of the highest diabetes death rates in the nation, and it's the sixth leading cause of death in Oklahoma.

How is it treated?

A hyperglycemic hyperosmolar coma — a result of extremely high blood sugar — is a medical emergency. This is more common in people who have type 2 diabetes than type 1 diabetes patients.

When blood sugar gets too high, it draws fluid from the inside of brain cells, and you suffer from brain dysfunction. To help pull the person out of the coma, medical professionals will give that person fluids and insulin.

Symptoms of hyperglycemia include decreasing levels of consciousness, frequent bathroom trips and extreme thirst. Sometimes hyperglycemia can be brought on by another condition or illness, such as urinary tract infections or pneumonia.

Meanwhile, a person suffering from a coma because of low blood sugar might have a faster turnaround time. Usually, these people notice symptoms related to hypoglycemia and then ingest glucose.

Early symptoms for hypoglycemia include an increased heart rate, chest palpitations, increased sweating and increased hunger. That's usually enough for a person to recognize they have low blood sugar and need access to glucose.

Issues with low blood sugar are more common than hyperglycemia. For example, sometimes a medicine you're taking might lower your blood sugar too much. When you're suffering from low blood sugar, it's generally advised to take rapid-acting glucose, such as pure glucose tablets.

Chocolate and other high fat foods aren't as ideal because they don't digest as quickly as other forms of glucose.


by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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