Anyone who has diabetes is at risk of a diabetic coma.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you're more at risk of a diabetic coma caused by:

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

If you have type 2 diabetes, you're generally more at risk of a diabetic coma caused by:

  • Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome, especially if you're middle-aged or older

If you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the following factors can increase the risk of diabetic coma:

  • Insulin delivery problems. If you're on an insulin pump, you have to check your blood sugar frequently, and one of the reasons for this is that a kink in the insulin pump tubing may stop all insulin delivery.

    Even tubeless pumps can sometimes have problems that cause insulin delivery to stop. A lack of insulin can quickly lead to diabetic ketoacidosis if you have type 1 diabetes.

  • An illness, trauma or surgery. When you're sick or injured, blood sugar levels tend to rise, sometimes dramatically. This may cause diabetic ketoacidosis if you have type 1 diabetes and don't increase your insulin intake to compensate.

    Other medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure or kidney disease, may increase your risk of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.

  • Poorly managed diabetes. If you don't monitor your blood sugar properly or take your medications as directed, you'll have a higher risk of developing long-term complications and diabetic coma.
  • Deliberately skipping insulin. Sometimes, people with diabetes who also have an eating disorder choose not to use their insulin as directed with the hope of losing weight. This is a dangerous, life-threatening practice that increases the risk of diabetic coma.
  • Drinking alcohol. Alcohol can have unpredictable effects on your blood sugar, sometimes dropping blood sugar levels as long as a day or two after the alcohol was consumed. This can increase your risk of a diabetic coma caused by hypoglycemia.
  • Illegal drug use. Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and Ecstasy, can increase your risk of severe high blood sugar levels, as well as your risk of diabetic coma.
Jun. 19, 2012