Those with diabetes should work with their primary care provider to manage their condition and control it as well as possible. However, there is always a risk for diabetic emergencies. It’s important to know the symptoms of these acute conditions so you can spot them early and get treatment as soon as possible.
Hypoglycemia is also called low blood sugar or “insulin shock.” It’s more common in those with Type 1 diabetes, but those who take insulin may experience low blood sugar if they have missed a meal, exercise too much or haven’t dosed their insulin correctly.
Mild hypoglycemia can cause shakiness and hunger. A person with low blood sugar may feel weak and need to sit down. Those who have had diabetes for a long time may not notice these early symptoms, making it more likely they’ll experience severe hypoglycemia. If someone has passed out from low blood sugar, call 911 immediately.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
DKA is most common with Type 1 diabetes, although it can also happen with Type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes. Ketoacidosis occurs when there isn’t enough insulin in the body, so the liver starts to break down fat to produce energy. When the process happens quickly, it changes the chemical environment within your body and can physically poison you.
There are many triggers for diabetic ketoacidosis, but the most common is an illness or infection, significant stress or taking certain medications. Other causes include not eating enough or having an insulin reaction.
Early symptoms, like thirst, dry mouth and excessive urination, are mild and could be overlooked. If a person is experiencing more severe symptoms like fatigue, nausea or vomiting, trouble breathing or is confused, they need urgent medical attention. One of the classic symptoms of ketoacidosis is fruity-smelling breath.
Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Syndrome (HHS)
HHS is severely high blood sugar, usually over 600, and is most common in those with Type 2 diabetes. It’s typical for those who have undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes. However, those who experience something unexpected, like an illness, may see a sharp increase in blood sugar. This is why monitoring blood sugar levels is essential, even for those with controlled diabetes.
Symptoms of high blood sugar can vary from person to person but include warm skin with no sweat, a fast heart rate, a high fever, frequent urination and dry mouth.
Are You Experiencing a Diabetic Emergency?
If someone is confused or has lost consciousness, call 911 immediately. If they are alert but experiencing symptoms that indicate a diabetic emergency, ensure they get emergency or urgent medical care as soon as possible. Experienced providers at Rapid Immediate Care in Crystal Lake and Hoffman Estates understand diabetes and its various complications and are ready to help.