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Hypoglycemic Coma

Hypoglycemic Coma
Excess of insulin intake can result in dangerously low blood sugar levels. In extreme cases, this may lead to hypoglycemic coma. This article discusses the causes and symptoms regarding the same.
Leena Palande
Hypoglycemia is a condition, wherein the blood sugar drops below the normal level. If this condition is left untreated, it may result in seizures and coma. Hypoglycemic coma is a type of diabetic coma, which usually results out of acute complications of diabetes. A diabetic coma can also occur due to hyperglycemia (too much of glucose in blood). Excessive amount of blood glucose leads to loss of unusual amounts of fluid (excessive urination), which may also result in hyperosmolar coma.
Since our brain does not produce the glucose required for its functioning, it is completely dependent on the rest of the body for its supply. Therefore, fluctuations in blood sugar levels can prove to be harmful for the brain.
  • Severe hypoglycemia or untreated diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Skipping meals or severe mismanagement of food and liquid intake, for prolonged period
  • An insulin overdose can drop the blood glucose levels abnormally and quickly. As a result, the cells tend to absorb all available glucose and leave none for the brain. This eventually results in brain cell starvation and coma.
  • Shivers and shaky nerves
  • Tiredness and continuous sweating
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased fatigue and confusion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Progressive drowsiness
  • Fruity smell in the breath
  • Nervousness
  • Loss of color
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • Dizzy spells, and even loss of consciousness
Hypoglycemia attacks require prompt medical attention. If treated immediately, no permanent damage can be experienced by the patient. As soon as the symptoms of insulin shock are noticed, glucose candies or juice should be given to the patient. This helps restore the body's sugar levels. However, if the symptoms are overlooked or if the treatment is delayed, there can be irreversible brain damage. The patient may go into coma, a profound state of unconsciousness.
A hypoglycemic comatose patient will not respond to outside stimuli. Although there is no lack of movement or silence, the patient is not in a conscious state of mind. The body responds to the low glucose levels, by beginning to shut down its functionality. It starts by destroying the neurons in the brain, which could cause loss of memory or function. Primary treatment involves giving an injection or administering intravenous form of hormonal medicine called glucagon. This helps restore the blood sugar levels quickly. The prognosis may vary according to the cause of coma, and the possibility to correct the particular situation.
It is always better to prevent hypoglycemic coma, than to undergo it and risk potential damage to the brain. If hypoglycemia is detected, the doctor will prescribe proper medicines; however, the patient should have balanced meals spaced 2 - 3 hours apart. Regular and careful monitoring of blood sugar levels, healthy diet, and minimal or no alcohol can definitely help avoid serious health complications.
Once you know the symptoms that indicate sudden drop of blood sugar levels, you can take appropriate steps when they are noticed. Family members should be aware of the risks associated with diabetes, and should not leave a person with hypoglycemia without any means of help. In case of acute attacks, 'Quick Medical Help' helps prevent permanent coma and irreversible brain damage. Emergency help contact number should always be accessible.
Regular exercises under the guidance of the physician can really help in keeping diabetes under check. Usually, serious symptoms of low blood sugar are exhibited by the body, when the blood glucose levels drop down to the mid 50s. Symptoms like nervousness, sweating, intense hunger, trembling, weakness, palpitations, and difficulty in speaking are easily recognizable. However, many symptoms of low blood sugar are similar to those observed in other diseases. It is therefore necessary, to consult your doctor for correct diagnosis and prompt treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.