March 16


Insulin Shock: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

By Gabriela

March 16, 2021

What is an insulin shock and who’s at risk of experiencing it? This is something that those with one of the most common diseases nowadays might want to know.

What is an Insulin Shock?

Individuals affected by the chronic disease called diabetes who take regular insulin shots should be careful not to forget to eat after injecting their insulin dose. They should eat as much as they usually do.

If for some reason they eat less than normal or forget to eat after taking the insulin shot, their blood sugar levels could drop to dangerously low levels – hypoglycemia.

Insulin shock is a life-threatening condition that happens if the person:

  • Takes a lot more insulin than needed,
  • Ignores mild hypoglycemia,
  • Forget to eat after injecting their insulin dose,
  • Does excessive exercise without making changes in their carb intake.


The insulin shock symptoms can progress really quickly. They have to be addressed in time to prevent progressing into seizures, coma, or even worse.

The early warning signs of insulin shock are:

  • Dizziness,
  • Shaking,
  • Sudden hunger,
  • Anxiety or nervousness,
  • Irritability,
  • Rapid heartbeat,
  • Sweating.

They could easily progress into:

  • Headaches,
  • Disorientation,
  • Muscle tremors,
  • Fainting,
  • Poor coordination,
  • Seizures,
  • Coma.

If someone experiences an insulin shock in the middle of the night, they’ll experience the following symptoms:

  • Very heavy sweating,
  • Crying,
  • Nightmares,
  • Aggressive behavior,
  • Waking up irritable or confused.

You should also know how to differentiate diabetic coma vs. insulin shock.

What Causes Insulin Shock?

Too high insulin levels in the blood can cause too low blood sugar levels. In this condition, our body doesn’t have the needed fuel/energy to perform its normal functions.

Having an insulin shock would mean too little fuel for our body so it’ll start shutting down.

So, if we take insulin shots to control our condition, we are at risk of having too high insulin levels in our blood if we miss a meal after taking the shot, or if we inject too much insulin.

Here are some other possible causes:

  • Drinking alcohol and not eating enough or any food,
  • Exercising more than always,
  • Eating less than usual.

Insulin Shock Treatment

When noticing the first signs of hypoglycemia, it’s best to act as soon as possible. Eat a sugary snack with some protein source like an energy bar or nuts.

This will give the insulin something to work with, thus normalizing blood glucose levels and alleviating the symptoms.

If our blood glucose levels aren’t increasing after 15 minutes, we should eat another small carbohydrate snack, and then a regular meal. If our blood glucose doesn’t improve after 3 treatments, we better head to the emergency room.

If some other person is experiencing these symptoms, make sure they eat the carbohydrate snacks and meals as soon as possible.

And, if the person is unconscious, call 911 and don’t give them anything to swallow as they might choke on it. We can also use an injection of glucagon.

Tips to Prevent It

Here are some tips to lower the risk of hypoglycemia and insulin shock:

  • We should carry some hard candy or glucose tablets with us  for situations when our blood glucose drops too low;
  • We shouldn’t miss a meal after taking our insulin shot;
  • We should consult our doctor before taking any new medication;
  • If our blood glucose is less than 100 mg/dL before exercising, we shouldn’t forget to take some carb snacks with us. We can also consult our dietitian about the choice of foods to eat before exercising;
  • We should consult our doctor about the different types of alcohol and their effect on blood sugar levels;
  • We may talk with our family, friends, and colleagues about the symptoms of hypoglycemia and the things they should do if we ever experience it;
  • If we are on insulin, we should consult our doctor about carrying glucagon with us;
  • It’s good to always carry a medical ID so that the emergency can act quickly.


If we take insulin shots we should know that taking care of ourselves could save our life.

But, with the proper precautions, we can manage our insulin medications and blood glucose levels, thus preventing insulin shock and other complications.


  • 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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