Diabetic Emergencies: Insulin shock Vs Diabetic Coma.


People suffering from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have the inability to control the blood sugar in their bodies. Most diabetic emergencies, therefore, result from the disruption of one’s blood sugar level. This means that deficiency of insulin or exhibiting excess insulin in your body could constitute to a diabetic emergency. Both extremes are life-threatening and usually cause unconsciousness.

Hypoglycemia, commonly known as insulin shock, is caused by abnormally low blood sugar levels in the body. High blood sugar level, on the other hand, causes hyperglycemia (diabetic coma). Even though most people refer to both conditions as diabetic coma, there exists a significant difference between the two. Diabetic coma is, however, the most fatal.

In this article, we will discuss the sign and symptoms that differentiate the two, with their possible prevention techniques.

Insulin Shock

Insulin shock results from the body’s reaction to low blood sugar level. Unlike the name suggests, there is no shock involved. Remember shock is associated with insufficient blood supply to the body’s vital organs such as the brain. Insulin shock does not really affect the blood pressure.

It’s only referred to as a shock because it makes the body to react in a “fight or flight response” manner, similar to the body’s reaction when one has low blood sugar. This syndrome makes our hearts to beat rapidly while sweating a lot.

Signs and Symptoms of Insulin Shock

  • Heart palpitation
    • Difficulty in speaking (may be followed by abnormal, hostile or aggressive behavior)
    • Dizziness and headache
    • Confusion
    • Nervousness
    • Fatigue

    Ways to prevent Insulin shock:

  • Identify the signs early enough
    • Check your glucose level frequently
    • Observe a healthy diet
    • Adhere to a strict eating schedule (preferably, eat smaller meals multiple times in a day)
    • Seek medical advice in case of any changes
    • You are advised to carry your medical information card to facilitate quick responses in case of an emergency

Diabetic Coma

Unlike insulin shock, patients in a diabetic coma are not aware of their diabetes. It usually creeps up on them causing dehydration and unconsciousness. Diabetic coma causes unconsciousness after a few days or weeks and is associated with dehydration severe enough to be considered a shock.

The name “diabetic coma” originates from the early 19th century before the invention of the technology used to measure the blood sugar levels accurately. Unconsciousness was the only reliable sign that doctor used to determine that a patient had diabetes.

Possible causes of diabetic coma

  • Eating thus leading to excess intake of carbohydrates
    • Suffering from infections that alter the insulin balance
    • Diabetic ketoacidosis
    • Having undiagnosed or untreated diabetes for a long time

    Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Coma resulting from hyperglycemia

  • Frequent urination
    • Feeling thirsty
    • Shallow breathing
    • Vomiting profusely
    • Breath containing acetone odor
    • Tiredness
    • Full rapid pulse
    • Dry mouth

    Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Coma resulting from hypoglycemia

  • Sweating
    • Light-headedness
    • Fatigue
    • Severe hunger
    • Anxiety
    • Confusion
    Although the two conditions are hard to distinguish, various unique symptoms can be used to differentiate them. For instance, frequent urination is very common in diabetic coma. It’s among the leading causes of dehydration which results in shock. The acetone or fruity breath odor is also a distinguishing factor.

In case of any of the above signs, you should consult medical attention immediately before you lose consciousness. You are also recommended to inform your friends, relatives and work colleagues of your condition so that they can react to any of the above signs promptly.

*The author of this blog is not a medical professional and this article does not contain professional medical advice. This blog is not intended to substitute for medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of the contents of this article. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.