What Does a Diabetic Seizure Look Like?


Feb 3, 2022


What does a diabetic seizure look like? Diabetic seizures occur when a diabetic’s blood glucose levels get too low as a result of an event such as using too much insulin, skipping a meal, over-exercising, or even drinking too much alcohol. To recognize a diabetic seizure, look for symptoms such as staring into space, confusion, muscle weakness, loss of consciousness, or uncontrollable body movements.

If you notice that you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, start by offering/eating quick-digesting sugar like a banana, juice, or glucose tablet. If symptoms do not appear to be getting better, don’t hesitate to call 911. Diabetic seizures can turn into a serious medical emergency, such as a diabetic coma, that requires urgent treatment.

Although diabetic seizures are a concerning result of low blood sugar, they are both treatable and preventable. Here are several ways to recognize a diabetic seizure and what to do.

What are the symptoms of a diabetic seizure?

So, what does a diabetic seizure look like? A diabetic can typically feel when a diabetic seizure is coming on due to a specific series of symptoms. At this point, it is crucial that you measure your blood glucose levels and ingest at least 15g of fast-acting sugar, testing your blood sugar again in 10 minutes. Low blood sugar is characterized by a blood glucose reading of below70mg/dL and very low blood sugar is below 20mg/dL.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of a diabetic emergency, make sure that you’re seated in a safe position should you experience loss of consciousness or uncontrollable movements.

Several initial signs of a diabetic emergency, like a diabetic seizure, include:

  • Confusion or drowsiness
  • Sweating
  • Irregular emotional swings
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vision loss or changes (i.e. double vision)
  • Difficulty speaking/loss of ability to speak

If low blood sugar levels are not attended to when the above symptoms are noticed, symptoms could progress into:

  • Uncontrollable body movements
  • Staring into space
  • Loss of consciousness

Again, if you notice any of the above symptoms in yourself or a loved one and they don’t get better with treatment, call for emergency help immediately.

What happens to your body when you have a diabetic seizure?

Most individuals or loved ones of those with diabetes are familiar with the terms “insulin” and “blood glucose”, but for those who are not, insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that is responsible for metabolizing blood glucose (sugar). In other words, insulin helps your body use blood glucose for energy. With diabetes, you either cannot produce insulin (type I diabetes) or your body can’t use it properly (type II diabetes).

As your body uses up its blood glucose stores, and if that sugar is not replaced, the amount in your bloodstream lessens, causing symptoms of low blood sugar including diabetic seizures. A diabetic seizure can also be referred to as diabetic shock or severe hypoglycemia and can be triggered by an event that causes your body to need more available blood glucose than it has. 

Although diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is commonly a complication of high blood sugar, it can occur as a result of low blood sugar. Therefore, if you have diabetes, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis such as fruity breath and high ketone levels. Untreated diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to diabetic seizures, diabetic comas, and in serious cases can even be fatal. 

Keep reading: What happens if DKA is left untreated?

Diabetic seizure: What to do

During a diabetic emergency treatment, the first thing you should do — so long as you are stable enough to do so — is to check your blood glucose levels. If they are low, you’ll want to supplement with at least 15g of sugar. Once your levels are balanced back out, try to eat a normal meal complete with good sources of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

In the event that symptoms progress leaving your loved one unconscious or convulsing, first ensure that they are in a safe position and turn them on their left side if possible. If they have a glucagon shot, you can administer it now. 

How to prevent a diabetic seizure

One of the best ways to handle diabetic seizures is to make sure they don’t happen in the first place. With certain preventative measures and proactive action, it is possible to avoid having a diabetic seizure or at the very least, mitigate symptoms at their onset.

To prevent a diabetic seizure:

  • Closely monitor your blood sugar throughout the day, taking note of how it responds to various stimuli
  • Eat regular, well-balanced meals containing healthy fat, protein, and carbohydrates
  • Do not skip meals or snacks
  • Take any medication as prescribed
  • Listen to your body and respond appropriately when you notice starting signs of low blood sugar
  • Always carry fast-acting sugars or glucose tabs

When in doubt, it never hurts to establish a plan on how to prevent and handle diabetic seizures with your doctor. Together, you can develop a diabetes emergency action plan.

Head to a Complete Care ER for emergency diabetic seizure treatment 

Now that you know the answer to “What does a diabetic seizure look like?” you hopefully feel more prepared to handle a diabetic seizure should it come your way. When you start noticing symptoms such as confusion or muscle weakness, try eating some fast-acting sugars. If that does not help and symptoms progress into convulsions or loss of consciousness, it’s time to seek emergency care.

Complete Care offers 24/7 hospital care with shorter wait times than your standard ER. We have ER locations all across Colorado and Texas (including several San Antonio emergency rooms), each fully equipped with onsite imaging and lab capabilities. During your time of need, Complete Care is here for you. 

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