December 30


Diabetic Coma vs. Insulin Shock: Symptoms and Causes

By Gabriela

December 30, 2021

The role of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia is very important in a diabetic coma. Diabetic coma is a very serious complication of diabetes that can cause unconsciousness. It can occur as a result of both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

A person who is in a diabetic coma is alive, but can’t respond to sound light, touch, or any other stimulation.

If this condition remains untreated, it can be fatal.

Many people often confuse diabetic coma with insulin shock. Even though they might seem similar, they are 2 different conditions.

This is how to differentiate diabetic coma vs. insulin shock.

Diabetic Coma vs. Insulin Shock

Insulin shock occurs when the body reacts to hypoglycemia, or the drop in the blood sugar levels when there is too much insulin.

Even though this condition carries the name ”insulin shock”, insulin is not the main cause of this problem, and there is no shock included.

Plus, people who don’t have diabetes might also experience insulin shock if their blood glucose drops too low.

While a diabetic coma causes unconsciousness that can last for a couple of days or weeks. Also, it can dehydrate the person experiencing it.

Both conditions require immediate treatment, but a diabetic coma is more serious since it can be fatal.

What Causes Diabetic Coma?

There are many different reasons that can cause diabetic coma, like diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome, diabetic ketoacidosis, and hypoglycemia.

1. Diabetic Hyperosmolar Syndrome

When the blood glucose levels top 600 mg/dL, the diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome occurs. As a result, the blood becomes syrupy and thick.

The excess sugar gets pulled from the blood and passes through the urine. This causes fluid to be drawn from the system.

If left untreated, this problem can lead to diabetic coma or dehydration.

2. Diabetic Ketoacidosis

This condition starves the muscles form energy, which forces the body to break down additional fat from storage.

As a result, toxins begin to form known as ketones. If this condition remains untreated, it could cause a diabetic coma.

Symptoms of Diabetic Coma

Diabetic coma can be a result of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. So, the symptoms may vary depending on the cause.

Here are the symptoms of a diabetic coma caused by hypoglycemia:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Trouble speaking
  • Weakness

Here are the symptoms of a diabetic coma caused by hyperglycemia:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Fruity breath odor
  • Increase in thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach pain.

How to Prevent a Diabetic Coma?

There are many useful ways we can try to prevent this condition. These tips can help us out:

  • Have a proper meal plan.
  • Take the proper medications prescribed by a doctor.
  • Monitor the blood sugar levels as often as possible.
  • Consult with a doctor about how to manage high or low blood sugar levels.
  • Whenever blood sugar drops drastically, have a fast-acting source of glucose
  • When blood sugar is too high, check for ketones.
  • Drink less alcohol and drink with caution.
  • Keep friends informed about your condition. It is important that they know how to spot a diabetic coma.
  • Always have a medical ID bracelet with you.

How to Prevent Insulin Shock

There are many useful ways to prevent this condition. Here are some tips:

  • Recognize the signs.
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels.
  • Have a proper eating schedule.
  • Eat smaller meal portions throughout the entire day.
  • Have glucose tablets or candies on hand in case of blood sugar levels drops.
  • Have a medical information card with you.
  • Keep friends informed about your condition so that they can spot the signs.
  • Consult with a doctor about the changes you might experience.


  • Gabriela

    Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Diabetes Health Page, Fitness trainer and instructor has dedicated her career to educating and informing people for over 10 years. As one of the most passionate diabetes advocates, Gabi has worked tirelessly to ensure that those people receive the education and support they need to properly manage their diabetes and achieve their health, fitness and weight loss goals.

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