Diabetic coma: What are the indications?

Diabetic coma is a serious, dangerous complication of diabetes where the individual progresses into a state of unconsciousness. It is a medical emergency if not promptly treated, since it can cause permanent brain damage or even death.

It is important to note that diabetic coma generally arises due to severe and continuous fluctuations in the blood sugar level of the individual. There are also various causes and accompanying symptoms linked with the condition.

Close look on diabetic coma

Diabetic coma is an alterable type of coma which is linked with diabetes. It usually manifests as an outcome of diabetes that was not properly treated. There are 3 forms – ketoacidotic, hyperosmolar and hypoglycemic.


It is important to note that diabetic coma generally arises due to severe and continuous fluctuations in the blood sugar level of the individual.

Remember that the signs of diabetic coma are largely based on the conditions that allowed it to develop. Nevertheless, in every case, diabetic coma is a medical emergency that necessitates prompt medical care.

  • Ketoacidotic develops mostly among those with type 1 diabetes. It is due to the accumulation of ketones or by-products of fat breakdown which causes the blood to become significantly acidic. This is usually brought about or aggravated by a missed insulin shot or an infection. The indications include lethargy, fatigue, nausea, excessive thirst, difficulty breathing, confusion, stomach pain, vomiting, fruity breath and increased urination.
  • Hypoglycemic coma occurs if an individual under diabetes medications take an extra or large dose of insulin, missed a meal, drinks alcohol without food, exercises without eating and drinking excess alcohol. The signs include sweating, weakness, excessive hunger, palpitations, confusion, confusion, trembling, drowsiness and altered behavior.
  • Hyperosmolar coma is the reverse of the hypoglycemic form. It is brought about by excessively elevated levels of blood glucose and severe dehydration. It usually arises if the individual is sick with other ailments such as the flu or pneumonia, missing out an insulin shot or diabetes medication or ingesting an increased number of sugary beverages or foods. The signs generally include fatigue, frequent urination, vomiting, nausea, rapid heartbeat, stomach pain and fruity breath.

Management of diabetic coma

When it comes to hyperosmolar and ketoacidotic coma, intravenous fluids, insulin as well as sodium and potassium are given right away. As for hypoglycemic coma, it requires the introduction of glucose intravenously or a glucagon hormone that can counteract the effects of excess insulin in the body.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on diabetic coma is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize the indications by taking a standard first aid course with Kelowna First Aid.