Diabetic emergencies: Awareness can itself save the day!

Do you know, diabetes can also be life threatening? Also, it can risk the life of a diabetic with several types of medical emergencies?

Though, heart attack, strokes, kidney failure, vision loss, foot amputation etc are common complications of diabetes, but, other conditions may force a diabetic to knock the doors of emergency department of the hospitals.

These emergencies are mainly characterized by lack or excess of insulin in the blood which in turn, affects the blood sugar levels of a diabetic to its extreme levels.

Though, for most of us, speculating a diabetic emergency might be a difficult area, but, if we are aware of the emergencies that can happen due to diabetes, one can save a precious life!

Dr Ritu Sabharwal (Senior Emergency officer, Department of Emergency, Max Hospitals, Vaishali) says, we usually encounter patients in the emergency department who either report to us in unconscious or semi conscious state due to their ?out of range? sugar levels. Unfortunately, most of the patients are not even aware that their condition is related to diabetes! Therefore, it is very important for diabetics to know the various types of medical emergencies that can arise due to diabetes.

So, let us know more on the kind of diabetic emergencies to have better control over unwanted circumstances.


The most common and lethal diabetes-related conditions seen in emergency department of a hospital are hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Hyperglycemia may inturn lead to diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketonic state. Diabetics may fall prey to these emergencies for reasons that may sometimes be known (overmedication with insulin or oral hypoglycaemics) or sometimes unexplained, says Dr Sabharwal.

An elaborate description of these conditions can further be explained here.

Hypoglycemia (Low Sugar level)

This develops when the sugar levels drop below 70. This is a state when body does not have enough glucose in the blood. The body reacts severely because the cells cannot produce energy. It may also lead to insulin shock.

The main reason for blood sugar drop may be either due to too much of insulin in the blood, missing a meal or doing too much of exercise. The patient may normally depict symptoms like;


  • Weakness, drowsiness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Fast breathing
  • Pale, sweaty skin
  • Headache
  • Odorless breath
  • Trembling or Numbness in hands or feet
  • Hunger

Though, you can treat hypoglycemia at home with sugar or high sugar snacks, but, if left untreated, it can result into Severe Hypoglycemia. This may cause convulsions, unconsciousness or hemiplegia?(weakness of one side of the body). Do not try to feed or offer water to an unconscious patient as it may cause aspiration and lead to death. If the patient is unconscious take him immediately to the hospital.

Hypoglycemia is a true medical emergency. Hence, it should be treated aggressively with glucose to prevent permanent brain damage or death.

Hyperglycemia (High blood sugar)

This is indicative of not having enough insulin in the blood, thereby causing high level of sugar which can also lead to diabetic coma.

Hyperglycemia can result in an emergency condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). It is a condition in which the body burns fat instead of glucose and creates a potentially harmful substance called ketones (acids) that can poison the body by changing the pH balance. Though, this is more frequent in type 1 diabetics but, is not uncommon in type 2 as well.?It is a serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma or even death.

Signs of DKA for some, though, these signs and symptoms may be the first indication of having diabetes. You may notice:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity-scented breath
  • Confusion

The most common events that may cause DKA are; Infection, Missed insulin injection, Undiagnosed diabetes, Heart attack, stroke, trauma, stress and surgery.

Similarly, in type 2 diabetes, a condition called Diabetic Hyperosmolar Syndrome?can develop. Your body tries to rid itself of the excess blood sugar by passing it into your urine. If left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening dehydration and coma. Hence, prompt medical care is essential.

The early signs and symptoms ?of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome include:

  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Fall in blood pressure in standing position
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Abnormally fast heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Coma
Final words!

Hypoglycemia, Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) and Hyperosmolar Syndrome are all life threatening conditions. So, if you experience any of these emergent conditions at home, please do not delay in seeking medical attention. Your life is priceless!


Kawaljit Kaur

Kawaljit is a healthcare professional with an experience of over 15 years in healthcare operations. Her last corporate position was Vice President-Operations at Centre for Sight. As a writer, she has an expertise in writing medical contents and those related to present healthcare scenarios for various platforms that include medical professionals, healthcare companies, web health portals, hospitals and at present also heading the editorial team of a healthcare magazine.

4 thoughts on “Diabetic emergencies: Awareness can itself save the day!

  • May 7, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Useful information…I am suffering from diabetes past many years. This blog carries many useful information. Really liked the information it shares.

    • July 10, 2017 at 7:03 am

      Thanks for your comment. Please write to us back if you are looking for a specific topic to be covered. We will happy to have our experts write on the topic.

  • May 7, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Nice. Very informative.

    • July 10, 2017 at 7:02 am

      Thanks for your comment. Please write to us back if you are looking for a specific topic to be covered. We will happy to have our experts write on the topic.


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