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How to Spot the Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Shock

November 1, 2018

Diabetic shock is a serious health risk. It can occur when your blood sugar gets too low or too high. But knowing how to prevent and treat the condition is critical to decreasing the risk of it happening to you.

Diabetic shock can happen anytime. It’s also referred to as a diabetic coma. I’s reversible if treated quickly.

So, let’s look at some of the symptoms, treatments and ways to prevent diabetic shock from happening to you.

Four Types of Diabetic Shock

There are primarily four different types of diabetic shock you can experience. It depends on whether or not your blood sugar level is too low or too high.

  1. Hypoglycemia: It occurs when your blood glucose gets too low. This happens for a variety of reasons, like skipping a meal or exercising too much for the amount of food you’ve eaten.
  2. Hyperglycemia: This happens when your blood sugar gets too high. It affects people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
  3. Diabetic Ketoacidosis: It is a life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes. Your body will start producing high levels of ketones due to a lack of insulin.
  4. Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS): HHNS occurs in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. It develops when your blood glucose reaches dangerously high levels. Typically, greater than 600 mg/dl.

Symptoms of Diabetic Shock

Symptoms of diabetic shock can vary, but generally you may experience any of the following:

In most people, the symptoms of hypoglycemia are easily recognizable. Symptoms of high blood sugar may include dehydration. It’s important to recognize the early warning signs, so treatment can be administered right away.

Treating Diabetic Shock

The fastest way to treat diabetic shock caused by low blood sugar is to eat or drink sugary foods or beverages. Things like:

  • Regular soft drinks
  • Juice
  • Hard Candy

Generally speaking, the steps to take to treat low blood sugar are as follows:

  1. Give a dose of 15 grams of glucose
  2. Assess the symptoms
  3. Do a blood glucose check (if possible)
  4. If after 10 minutes there is no improvement, another 10-15 grams should be given.

This can be repeated up to three times. If there’s no response you should call 911 immediately.

The equivalency of 10-15 grams of glucose (approximate servings) are:

  • Four hard candies
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 can of regular soda or juice

For someone living with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends a blood sugar level of 80-130 mg/dl before a meal and less than 180 mg/dl, 1-2 hours after eating.

While there is some degree of variability among people, most people will usually develop symptoms of diabetic shock when blood glucose levels are lower than 50 mg/dL.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is typically treated at the hospital. If you’re experiencing it you’ll be severely dehydrated and be treated with fluids and electrolytes such as:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride

You’ll also be given insulin as part of your recovery process.

Preventing Diabetic Shock

One way to keep your blood sugar levels under control is to eat a healthy diet. Foods high in good carbohydrates, including:

  • Whole grain brown rice
  • Barley
  • Nuts and beans

Foods like these will help keep your glucose levels from spiking.

You can also take some precautions to prevent diabetic shock. Try to remember to do the following:

  • Keep glucose tablets or hard candy with you in case your blood sugar dips too low.
  • Always eat after taking your insulin shot.
  • Talk to your doctor about how to use a new medication.

Aerobic exercise can also help your body use insulin better.

If you’d like more information on diabetic shock or diabetes in general, download our “Complete Guide to Diabetes”. In it you’ll also learn the risk factors for diabetes and if you should get screened.

Diabetes in America