Diabetic Coma: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

In people with diabetes, it occurs when severe blood sugar levels are not controlled.

If treated quickly, a person will soon recover from a diabetic coma. However, a diabetic coma can be fatal or cause brain damage.

It is essential for people with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar and know what to do when their blood sugar levels are not within their normal range.

The severe symptoms of uncontrolled blood sugar before a diabetic coma include vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, weakness, and dizziness.

A diabetic coma occurs when a person with diabetes loses consciousness.

The cells of the body require glucose to function. High blood sugar or hyperglycemia can make people feel dizzy and lose consciousness.

Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia can cause dehydration to the point where you can lose consciousness.


Generally, hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia can be prevented from progressing to a diabetic coma.

If a diabetic coma occurs, the doctor will likely be able to balance your blood glucose levels and restore your consciousness and health quickly if they can respond to your condition promptly.

You can also go into a diabetic coma if you develop diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a build-up of chemicals called ketones in the blood.

Causes of diabetic coma

Diabetic coma is more likely to occur in people who have low or high blood sugar levels for a long time.

People with a regularly fluctuating rate of diabetes may face a diabetic coma.

Diabetic cetoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis may be the reason for diabetic coma. Fat stored in body cells begins to break down when muscle cells run out of energy.

Ketones are produced during this process. Diabetic ketoacidosis causes diabetic coma when left untreated.

People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to be affected by diabetic ketoacidosis.

However, people with gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes can also suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome can cause a diabetic coma. Hyperosmolar diabetic syndrome is determined if the blood sugar level is more than six hundred mg per deciliter (mg per dL).

Blood becomes thick with higher sugar content. A large amount of water supply is required as blood sugar enters the urine through the filtration process.

The hyperosmolar diabetic syndrome can be fatal if not treated in time. It can also turn into a diabetic coma in some cases.

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome is more common in middle-aged and older patients.

People who have both types of diabetes are more likely to be affected by the diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.


Hypoglycemia can be a reason for diabetic coma. People with low blood sugar levels are more likely to pass out.

A higher intake of insulin or a deficiency in a proper diet can cause hypoglycemia.

Too much alcohol consumption or vigorous physical activities can also lead to hypoglycemia.

The indications for hypoglycemia vary depending on the intensity of the syndrome.

Excessive sweating, hunger, or nervousness can be hypoglycemia in people affected with low blood sugar levels.

For people with long-term diabetes, the signs may not be alarming.

This is defined as ignorance of hypoglycemia.

Risk factors for diabetic coma

While anyone with diabetes is at risk for a diabetic coma, the causes depend on the type of diabetes:

  • People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to go into a diabetic coma due to diabetic ketoacidosis or hypoglycemia. People with type 1 diabetes always use insulin and have a broader range in their blood glucose levels than people with type 2 diabetes.
  • People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to go into a diabetic coma from hyperosmolar diabetic syndrome than diabetic ketoacidosis or hypoglycemia.

Other risks that can lead to diabetic coma in anyone with diabetes include:

  • Surgery.
  • Trauma.
  • Disease.
  • Insulin supply problems.
  • Poor management of diabetes.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Skipping insulin doses.
  • Using illegal substances.



Symptoms of hypoglycemia can include:

  • Headache.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Heart palpitations
  • Instability.


If you have hyperglycemia, you may experience a noticeable increase in thirst and urinate more frequently.

A blood test would also reveal higher levels of glucose in the bloodstream.

A urine test can also show that your glucose levels are too high.

Symptoms also include increased thirst and a frequent urge to urinate.

Other symptoms of elevated ketone levels include:

  • The feeling of tiredness.
  • Have an upset stomach
  • Have red or dry skin.

If you have more severe diabetic coma symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • The confusion.
  • The weakness.
  • Dizziness.

You should see a doctor immediately; a diabetic coma is a medical emergency, which can lead to brain damage or death if left untreated.


A diabetic coma has developed if:

  • You have diabetes, and your blood sugar is 300 mg / dL for an unknown reason.
  • You have low blood sugar (less than 70 mg / dL).
  • If a person with diabetes seems confused, they may have an intense blood sugar episode.


Treatment of hyperglycemia requires intravenous fluids to improve fluid levels throughout the body.

You may also receive insulin to help your cells absorb the extra circulating glucose.

If your sodium, potassium, or phosphate levels are low, you may need supplements to help them reach healthy levels.

A glucagon injection will help increase your blood sugar levels if you have hypoglycemia.


Once your blood glucose levels are healthy, you should start to improve almost immediately.

If unconscious, the patient should recover shortly after treatment begins.

There should be no lasting effects if the patient received treatment shortly after symptoms appeared.

If symptoms occurred for a time before treatment or if you were in a diabetic coma for several hours or more, you could experience some brain damage.

An untreated diabetic coma can also cause death.

People who receive emergency treatment for a diabetic coma usually make a full recovery.

The doctor may recommend that the patient wear a medical identification bracelet that explains the nature of their diabetes and other health problems.

This can help ensure that you get the proper treatment for future problems quickly.

If you experience a diabetic coma without knowing you have diabetes, the doctor will work with the patient to develop a diabetes treatment plan.

This will include medications, as well as recommendations for diet and exercise.

Diabetic coma prevention

If you have diabetes, it is essential to pay attention to your blood glucose levels and diet every day.

The key to preventing a diabetic coma is proper blood glucose management.

As your doctor recommends, this means taking your insulin and testing your blood glucose and ketones.

You should also pay close attention to carbohydrate consumption.

The diabetic patient has to know what to do if he misses a dose of insulin or another diabetes medicine and how to react or what to do if he begins to feel symptoms of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.

Diabetes can affect your health in other ways. Uncontrolled diabetes can harm cardiovascular health in particular.

As you age, your body chemistry changes, so you must be prepared to change the doses of medications or adjust your diet in case of critical variations in glucose levels.