Insulin shock is defined as a complication of severe hypoglycemia. The following article provides information on its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
Insulin shock is another name for severe hypoglycemia, which refers to abnormally low levels of glucose in the body. It is not a disease in itself, but a symptom or an outcome of several factors. Although diabetes is a common one among these factors, there are other conditions also which may cause the blood glucose levels to drop.
In order to understand the cause, it is imperative to know the function of insulin in the body. When we ingest food, our body absorbs the carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugar molecules. When the blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas is signaled to secrete the hormone insulin. Insulin regulates the blood sugar levels by facilitating the absorption of glucose from the blood by the body’s cells. Glucose is also stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen, which is used to provide energy later.
However, in people with diabetes, the body either produces little or no insulin, or the body’s unable to utilize insulin. This causes high glucose levels in blood. In order to deal with this problem, insulin or other drugs are prescribed by the doctor. If a patient takes too much insulin accidentally, in relative to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream, it may cause the glucose to fall dangerously low, thereby causing insulin shock.
Apart from this, hypoglycemia could occur due to the use of certain medications, alcohol abuse, hepatitis, kidney disorders, insulinoma (tumors of pancreas; a rare disorder), and disorders of the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland. Fasting for too long could also be a contributing factor. However, hypoglycemia may occur even after meals, in case of people who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.
During the 1940s and 50s, insulin shock therapy became very popular for psychiatric treatment. It was extensively used for schizophrenia. It involved the administration of heavy doses of insulin to induce a coma. This practice resulted in hypoglycemia in most patients. However, later this practice was discontinued, and replaced with the use of other suitable drugs.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms might include confusion, abnormal behavior, double vision, blurred vision, seizures (rare), and unconsciousness (rare). These might be accompanied by other symptoms such as anxiety, perspiration, hunger, palpitations, and tremors. However, these additional symptoms might be caused by some other underlying medical conditions, and are not specific to only this condition.
The treatment must be immediate as this condition can worsen, especially when the brain is not receiving a steady supply of sugar (glucose). The aim of the treatment is normalize the glucose levels, and resolve the underlying condition that is causing it. For instance, if the use of certain medications is causing the condition, then the doctor might change the dosage or prescribe another drug.
In mild cases, taking sugar candy, sugar, or drinking sweet fruit juices, is good enough for raising the blood sugar level. However, if the symptoms are so severe that the patient is unable to eat or drink, then intravenous administration of glucose or an injection of glucagon might be recommended.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.