| Diabetic Coma: Emergency Treatment
People with diabetes may lose consciousness if there is either too much or too little insulin in their blood. If they do not receive treatment quickly the risk of death is high.
Too Much Insulin (low blood sugar)
Diabetics are usually very well aware of the danger of allowing their blood sugar level to fall too low and most are experts at regulating their food intake to prevent it. When it does happen (known as hypoglycemia), however, it can lead to unconsciousness, so urgent action is required.
• Profuse sweating
• Rapid pulse
• Shallow breathing and trembling. The person may seem confused, even drunk.
• If they do not get sugar fast enough, faintness follows, then rapid loss of consciousness.
Not Enough Insulin (high blood sugar)
This condition (known as hyperglycemia) usually builds up over a few days.
• Excessive urination
• Dry skin
• Rapid pulse
• Deep, sighing breaths
• Smell of acetone on the breath (fruity smelling breath)
• Eventually unconsciousness may occur.
What To Do
If the person is unconscious, place him or her in the recovery position and call for emergency medical help. If conscious, give a little sugar, honey, chocolate or fruit juice and watch the response. A rapid improvement in condition indicates low blood sugar, in which case more sugar can safely be given.
Who Is Most At Risk?
According to the CDC, adults over 60 are most at risk of diabetic coma. This may be because older adults have an altered sense of thirst and as a result can become more easily dehydrated. They may not even realize they are diabetic, although they usually have a history of feeling excessively thirsty. In most cases, patients feel excessively thirsty and urinate more than normal in the preceding weeks of the coma. Severe loss of body water can shock the body into a coma, and even death. Death rates can be as high as fifty percent.
• Other health issues? See: How to treat common illnesses.
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