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Diabetic Coma: The Deadly Truth

written by: angiem1981 • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 8/5/2010

Complications of diabetes can be devastating, especially for the patient that goes into diabetic coma. In addition to possible brain damage, many may be unaware that death can also occur.

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    What is a Diabetic Coma?

    A diabetic coma is a very serious medical condition that can be lethal. Statistics indicate that nearly half of the patients who fall into this type of coma will die. While there are various causes of a diabetic coma, it can be prevented in some cases. Knowing the warning signs and causes can aid in prevention and early treatment of this condition.

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    What Causes A Diabetic Coma?

    Uncontrolled blood sugar often contributes to the incidence of diabetic coma. Hypoglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, and diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome are all conditions related to the blood sugar that can result in diabetic coma and death. Thus, those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at risk. However, there are numerous other factors that can be responsible for this type of coma. Medications, infections, heart attack, and other illnesses and/or conditions can have the same potential effects.

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    Complications

    One of the most common complications of diabetic coma tends to be associated with brain damage. Memory loss and changes in function may be noticeable for some, while others will have more severe impairments. Patients may often come back to consciousness within a few days and those that don't may remain in what is called an "awake" coma until death. During an awake coma, the individual may be able to make slight noises and the eyes may be open, but the individual cannot respond to stimuli. Loss of higher brain function has occurred in this situation.

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    Treatment and Prevention

    Treatment of diabetic coma consists of stabilizing and returning the patients blood sugar level back to normal. This is typically accomplished through the use of IV fluids and/or injections. The same treatment may also be necessary for prevention of diabetic coma. Treatment options will vary on a case by case basis and may be dependent on a number of things. Due to the prognosis of diabetic coma, it is maintained that preventative measures are key. Monitoring blood glucose levels, eating properly, and administering medication appropriately are all ways that can help prevent diabetic coma and/or death.

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    Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Coma

    Knowing when to seek medical attention is a necessity and certain signs and symptoms should not be ignored. Profuse sweating, trembling, dizziness, shortness of breath, confusion, and vomiting are all preliminary symptoms of diabetic coma. There may also be a marked increase in thirst, hunger, and urination. It's important to keep in mind that not all patients will have the same signs and symptoms and the severity of such symptoms may also differ.

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    Diabetic coma can often result in death. However, in recent years the number of those falling into diabetic coma has significantly decreased. In addition to monitoring diabetes and eating right, the patient can benefit from exercising regularly and going for recommended checkups.

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    References

    Diabetic Coma. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Staff. 22, March 2008. Viewed 23, December 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetic-coma/DS00656/DSECTION=causes.

    Diabetic Ketoacidosis. National Institute of Health. MedlinePlus. 20, May 2009. Viewed 23, December 2010. Updated by: Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. Also reviewed by Deborah Wexler, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Endocrinologist, Massachusetts General Hospital.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000320.htm


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