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Emergency Conditions in Diabetes and Symptoms

An emergency condition in diabetes can occur when blood sugar levels drop too low or rise too high from their normal limits. This risks causing serious health problems, coma, and even death. Therefore, emergency signs and symptoms in diabetes are important to recognize.

When someone consumes carbohydrate foods, the digestive tract will break down these carbohydrates into smaller sugar molecules, known as glucose. Glucose is then absorbed into the cells of the body with the help of insulin, to be used as a source of energy.

When the amount of insulin is too low or abnormalities occur in cells that make it difficult to use insulin, then the glucose level in the blood increases. Over time, this condition can cause diabetes.

Symptoms of Emergency Conditions in Diabetes

Diabetics need to recognize the signs and symptoms of an emergency condition in diabetes. Because if ignored and left without help, this condition can cause coma, permanent brain damage, or even death. The following are some of the emergency conditions in diabetes that you need to be aware of:


Hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar levels are too low. This can happen because diabetics use diabetics drugs dosage that is too high, forget to eat after taking diabetes medications or use insulin, eat-in too little portions, exercise heavily, or consume alcohol.

When experiencing hypoglycemia, a person can experience the following symptoms:

  • Feeling hungry or appetite increases.
  • Trembling body.
  • Dizzy
  • Fainted
  • Limp
  • Heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Anxious or nervous

When experiencing a blood sugar drop that is too drastic, diabetics need to immediately get sugar intake to raise their blood sugar levels. This intake can be obtained from consuming sugar, fruit juice, sweet tea, honey, or candy.

After 15 minutes, if the symptoms have not improved, repeat the administration of sugar. If it has been done three times but there has been no improvement, worsening conditions, or even a seizure or fainting, immediately to the nearest emergency department.

Diabetic hyperosmolar hyperglycemia syndrome

This syndrome also called a hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state (HHS), occurs when blood sugar levels reach 600 mg / dL or more so that the blood of diabetics becomes thick. In this situation, the body will try to get rid of the excess sugar through the urine, which actually makes people with diabetes dehydrated.

If left unchecked, diabetic hyperosmolar hyperglycemia syndrome can end in coma and death. About 57% of these cases are caused by bacterial infections, 21% are caused by irregular consumption of diabetes medications, and the rest are caused by heart disease, kidney disorders, or strokes.

Diabetics who experience this emergency can show symptoms such as:

  • Dry mouth and thirst.
  • Fever.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Cold feet and hands.
  • Chest pounding fast.
  • Convulsions.
  • Weakness on one side of the body.
  • Passed out or coma.
  • Confusion.

Diabetic patients who experience this emergency condition must be immediately taken to the emergency department (ER) at the nearest hospital, to get treatment.

Diabetic ketoacidosis

This condition occurs when starving body cells are forced to break down fat as an energy source. Cells may starve because the body lacks insulin or cannot properly use insulin to get glucose into cells as a source of energy.

The breakdown of fat produces ketones which can be toxic to the body if the amount is excessive. Diabetic ketoacidosis is one of the most dangerous emergencies in diabetes.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is more likely to occur in diabetic patients who have certain conditions, such as infection, injury, surgery, uncontrolled blood sugar, or heart disease. Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis can be:

  • Feeling very thirsty and weak.
  • Dizzy.
  • Hard to breathe.
  • Chest pounding fast.
  • Mouth and dry skin.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Breath smells like fruit.
  • Fainted.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
  • Coma.

Diabetes patients who experience these symptoms should immediately get medical help at the hospital. The doctor will give treatment through an IV and give insulin to gradually reduce blood sugar levels. If late handled, this condition can cause fatal complications.

Prevention of Emergency Conditions in Diabetes

To prevent diabetes emergency, several steps must be done, namely:

  • Obey the rules of diabetes and insulin medicines. This includes the dosage and time of use.
  • Keep the time and portions always eat regularly.
  • Check blood sugar levels regularly. In addition to the usual blood sugar test kits, it can also with a blood sugar monitor (continuous glucose monitor / CGM). CGM is a small device that is inserted into the skin tissue to monitor blood sugar levels continuously. Research shows that CGM can improve the quality of blood sugar control in diabetics.
  • Provide sugar intake, such as candy or sugary drinks, which are ready for consumption when blood sugar suddenly drops.
  • Don't smoke and avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Watch for symptoms that may occur after exercising and prepare adequate sugar intake.

Well, now you already know about the dangers of an emergency condition in diabetes, right? You need to be aware of the symptoms to avoid fatal conditions. However, even more, important is to prevent an emergency condition in diabetes, by doing the methods above. Do not forget to routinely do a doctor's examination if you have diabetes.



  1. Wisse, B. National Institutes of Health (2019). U.S. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus. Diabetic Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Syndrome. 
  2. Diabetes UK. Diabetic Emergencies.
  3. Cleveland Clinic (2017). Diabetic Coma.

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