What is Diabetic Coma?

by humagaia

What is diabetic coma? It occurs when our blood sugar range rises too high (hyperglycemic coma), or when our blood sugar range falls too low (hypoglycemic coma).

What is Diabetic Coma?
Diabetic coma is when our body and brain shut down. It is caused when the blood sugar range rises above, or falls below, the level of sugar content at which our body can function. This can be different levels for different people. The only way to ensure a diabetic coma does not occur for you or your family members is to consult your medical team, or to check your blood sugar levels regularly with a blood sugar monitor. A diabetic coma can cause devastating effects on the body and, not infrequently, lead to death.

What is Coma?

Comatose is the state of being in a coma, unconscious as if in a stupor.

There are many causes of coma: trauma and illness being the main ones.

But coma can also be induced, either for medical reasons, or by the ingestion of substances poisonous to body functions.

Some coma are so severe that life support is required, as brain function is diminished.

The patient may be unresponsive or even brain dead.

Wordle: Coma

Where coma is medically induced, it is done so to allow the body to recover from a devastating event. 

Coma recovery is not infrequent.

It all depends on the cause

What is Diabetes?

Simply, diabetes is a condition where sugar intake is not processed properly by the body. 

Basically, our body makes sugar available to cells through the action and reaction of insulin. When insulin is not produced in sufficient quantity, is over-produced, or its function is diminished, then diabetes can ensue. 

There are two extremes with diabetes:

  1. High blood sugar - where insulin does not properly use up the sugar within our blood.
    This is called hyperglycemia.
  2. Low blood sugar - where the amount of sugar in our blood falls below a certain level.
    This is called hypoglycemia.

Both are damaging to our systems, and both are functions of the inefficient functioning of insulin. Both can cause diabetic coma. 

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What is Hyperglycemic Coma?

A hyperglycemic coma occurs when blood sugar levels reach extreme proportions.

Over time, when insulin function is diminished, the level of blood sugar increases slowly. Eating products that have sugar within (basically everything we eat), increases the blood sugar level, as insulin produced fails to utilise it completely.

Some sugar is processed by the kidneys, and excreted. But the kidneys are not designed to remove large amounts of sugar. Sugar is the energy source our body needs to function. It would normally be counter-productive for it to be excreted.

As the blood sugar levels increase, our bodies show many and increasing symptoms. If these are not controlled, or diabetes is not diagnosed, eventually our body is overwhelmed and our brain shuts down. 

This is the onset of a hyperglycemic diabetic coma. Medical treatment is imperative at this point, if not before.

Medical Emergency
Rush to Hospital
Rush to Hospital

What is Hypoglycemic Coma?

Unlike hyperglycemia, which creeps up on the body slowly, hypogycemia is a very quick bodily reaction caused by low blood sugar levels. The fact is that the body functions well at a lowish blood sugar level, and still functions when blood sugar levels double or treble or quadruple or..... you get the drift.

But when blood sugar levels halve, as in hyperglycemia, our body reacts adversely almost immediately. It can take little time for a hypoglycemic coma to ensue. This follows quickly on from fainting due to insulin using too much of the blood sugar available.

Another Medical Emergency
Speed is of the Essence
Speed is of the Essence

It can be reversed quickly, if caught in time, by administering an intake of any form of sugar.

If it is not caught quickly, then a coma ensues, followed rapidly by death.

There is very little time available to reverse the condition.

Testing for Diabetes

Although diabetes sufferers, those that have been diagnosed at least, understand the symptoms that present themselves as hyper- and hypoglycemia, the only way to understand and control blood sugar levels is to test for diabetes, and for high or low blood sugar levels.

This is undertaken with the use of inexpensive blood sugar testing monitors and strips. 

Every family, regardless of whether any member has been diagnosed with diabetes, should test each member on a regular basis (at least monthly). This would indicate when sugar levels in the blood start regularly to reach levels above the norm for any individual.

Catching diabetes earlier rather than later can have a positive impact on the amount of, or need for, medication. A blood sugar test machine will certainly inform of any impending likelihood of, especially for hyperglycemic, coma.

Next in Diabetes Series

Symptoms of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) correspond with many of the symptoms of diabetes, unsurprisingly as a diabetes diagnosis relies on testing for high blood glucose.


Updated: 03/04/2012, humagaia
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humagaia on 03/03/2012

I'm writing a series on Diabetic coma to make people aware and hopefully maybe prevent just one person from going through what I went through - and am still suffering from the consequences.

katiem2 on 03/03/2012

What a very scary thing to consider. I have a brother who's diabetic and I do worry about him. Its just such a scary thing to live with. I also knew a woman who died of a severe diabetic episode, she was a co-worker, visited her in the hospital while in a coma. I thought she'd survive and yet she did not. It was a very sad day that heightened my awareness as to the serious nature of diabetes.

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