Updated 23 March 2017

Diabetic comas

Diabetic comas can be the result of both hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemia.


Diabetic comas can be the result of both hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).

These comas are acute diabetic complications and are the result of uncontrolled blood glucose levels. Comas caused by hyperglycaemia are also referred to as ketoacidosis and is most often seen in Type 1 diabetics and very rarely in Type 2 diabetics.

Type 2 diabetics sometimes develop what is known as hyperosmolar comas. Both these types of comas are life-threatening and should be treated as medical emergencies.

When paramedics have to treat diabetics who are in a comatose state, they usually treat them initially as if they have hypoglycaemia, as added sugar does little damage to someone with hyperglycaemia, whereas low blood glucose levels could easily be fatal. At hospital it is quickly determined whether they are hypoglycaemic or hyperglycaemic and the appropriate treatment is given.

Careful control of insulin levels and blood glucose levels can prevent these diabetic emergencies. Diabetic comas are very serious indeed and are the body’s way of signalling that blood glucose levels are seriously out of control. Regular testing and adherence to doctor’s prescriptions regarding diet, exercise and medication should be strictly adhered to. - (Health24, updated January 2005)


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