5 Signs Of A Diabetic Emergency


Jan 14, 2022


Curious about the 5 signs of a diabetic emergency to watch out for? Being aware of symptoms like confusion, blurry vision, loss of consciousness, increased heart rate, and weakness can help you recognize when you’re experiencing a diabetic emergency.

When you notice any of these symptoms, check your glucose levels ASAP. If you can catch the signs early enough, most of these diabetic emergency symptoms should go away on their own with at-home treatment. Knowing the signs can help prevent disaster before it strikes.

Five signs and symptoms of a diabetic emergency

A diabetic emergency can be triggered by skipping meals, over-exercising, drinking alcohol, or taking too much insulin. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms and at-home treatment is not working to rebalance your glucose levels, do not wait to call your doctor or head to an emergency room for treatment.

Here are 5 diabetic emergency symptoms to watch for:

1. Confusion or lightheadedness

Having low blood sugar can cause your brain to go into energy-saving mode and can cause your brain cells to malfunction. The result of this can be slurred speech, dizziness, and even temporary memory loss. Once you address your low blood sugar, all of the above symptoms should return back to normal. If they don’t, call your doctor immediately.

2. Blurry vision

If you are experiencing blurry vision or visual disturbances as a result of low blood sugar, don’t worry — nothing is actually happening to your eyes. Rather, it’s a sign that your brain is in desperate need of fuel. However, if you’re in a state of hyperglycemia, the higher blood sugar levels cause fluid to move to your eyes and can affect the shape of your eyes lens. As with any confusion or lightheadedness you experience, your vision should return back to normal once you’ve rebalanced your blood glucose to between 70-130 mg/dL.

3. Seizure or loss of consciousness

Drastic changes in blood sugar in either direction, high or low, can have an effect on your nervous system resulting in loss of consciousness, seizures, or violent muscle contractions. Unconsciousness can also be caused by insulin shock, which occurs when you have too much insulin in your bloodstream and not enough glucose. At this point, your body is in such desperate need of energy that it begins to shut down.

If you or someone you love is experiencing a seizure or is unconscious due to a diabetic emergency, do not wait to call 911. Severe seizures can lead to long-term brain damage if they are left untreated. You may also want to ask about testing for underlying illnesses or re-addressing insulin dosage.

4. Racing heart

A racing heart, heart palpitations, and/or an irregular heartbeat are often signs that your blood sugar levels are too high. This is because your body is trying to digest the food you ate and it has redirected some of its blood flow to your digestive system, causing the heart to work a little harder.

5. Weakness

Weakness coupled with sudden sweating and feeling faint is a major sign that your blood sugar is dropping. Because your body doesn’t have the glucose or energy it needs to fuel your muscles and nervous system, you can feel an overall weakness in your body and limbs. Once you eat, this feeling should go away on its own.

How to treat a diabetic emergency

If left untreated, a diabetic emergency can quickly turn into a serious complication called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Untreated DKA can lead to unconsciousness, coma, and severe cases, even death. That said, it is vitally important that you work with your doctor to have a plan in place that helps you recognize and treat a diabetic emergency.

To treat a diabetic emergency, at the first sign of hunger or shakiness, the first thing you should do is check to see if your blood sugar is high or low. This will help you determine the next course of action.

How to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

If your blood glucose levels are below 70 mg/dl, you’ll want to eat at least 15g of a fast-acting carb. This could be glucose tablets, honey, fruit juice, or candy. Give it about 15 minutes and check your blood glucose again. If it is still below 70mg/dl, repeat this process and test again. Once you are rebalanced, you’ll want to eat a well-balanced meal complete with protein, a healthy fat, and low glycemic-index carbohydrate.

Wondering what to do if a diabetic passes out? If the person is unconscious, do not try to feed them. Call 911 immediately. If they wake up before help arrives, you can help them drink a couple of sips of a sugary drink or fruit juice.

How to treat hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)

Hyperglycemia is a dangerous complication of type 2 diabetes. It occurs when your blood sugar is over 600 mg/dL and you have very low ketone levels. This is typically a diabetic emergency in individuals who have uncontrolled diabetes and contract some type of illness or infection. 

To treat a hyperglycemic emergency, call 911 immediately. As the blood glucose rises, the body tries to get rid of it through your urine and you may require intravenous dehydration treatment, insulin therapy, and possible infection treatment.

Need emergency care for a diabetic emergency? Don’t wait to head into a Complete Care 24/7 ER.

Although it is helpful to recognize these 5 signs of a diabetic emergency, above all, the best thing you can do for your body is work to prevent diabetic emergencies from happening in the first place. A couple of ways to do this is by monitoring your daily sugar intake, incorporating daily movement, and taking the right amount of insulin.

If you do experience a diabetic emergency and require urgent care, don’t wait to head into a Complete Care freestanding ER. We have ER locations throughout Colorado and Texas including several locations in San Antonio, that are all fully staffed with experienced doctors and nurses. We are here to take complete care of you.

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