Diabetic coma

Diabetic coma

People with diabetes who have extremely high or low blood sugar levels can slip into a diabetic coma. This is a very serious, life-threatening complication. To wake up from a diabetic coma, medical care is needed. Mostly people with diabetes type 1 are at risk but people with type 2 are also at risk.


Before slipping into a coma, there are several signs to watch out for. These signs are related to either a high or low blood sugar level. If your blood sugar is too high, you may experience frequent urination, increased thirst, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, stomach pain and shortness of breath. Signs of a low blood sugar include trembling, fatigue, sweating, nausea, irritability, irregular heartbeat, hunger and difficulty speaking.

Causes of diabetic coma

A very high or very low blood sugar level can thus lead to a diabetic coma. That’s why it is extremely important that people with diabetes manage their condition carefully. There are three main causes for a diabetic coma:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA): this occurs when your body uses fat instead of glucose for its energy needs. This process forms toxic acids called ketones. DKA is most common for people with type 1 diabetes but it can also affect people with type 2.
  • Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome: if your blood sugar level comes extremely high your blood becomes thick. The excess sugar passes from your blood into your urine which your body will try to filter by drawing big amounts of fluid.
  • Hypoglycaemia: if you don’t have enough glucose in your body, you won’t be able to function properly. A low blood sugar level can be caused by too much insulin intake or too little food. Drinking too much alcohol or heavy exercise can also have the same effect.

A diabetic coma needs immediate medical treatment. However, it’s best to not let it get that far. It’s important to measure your blood sugar level if you experience any symptoms of a diabetic coma. It’s also important to tell your family, friends and co-workers about the symptoms so they can help in case of emergency. Meanwhile, stick to a healthy and regular diet and stay hydrated.