Risk factorsBy Mayo Clinic Staff
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 a diabetic coma:
May 22, 2015
Insulin delivery problems. If you're on an insulin pump, you have to check your blood sugar frequently. One of the reasons for this is that a kink in the insulin pump tubing may stop all insulin delivery without you being aware of it.
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 dosage 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 a 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 a diabetic coma.
- Drinking alcohol. Alcohol can have unpredictable effects on your blood sugar, sometimes dropping blood sugar levels as late 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 a diabetic coma.
- Standards of medical care in diabetes — A position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2015;38(suppl):S1.
- Ketoacidosis (DKA) and ketones. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/ketoacidosis-dka.html. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hyperglycemia.html. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Hypoglycemia. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/hypoglycemia/. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Disadvantages of using an insulin pump. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/disadvantages-of-using-an.html. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hypoglycemia-low-blood.html. Accessed March 31, 2015.
- Continuous glucose monitoring. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/glucosemonitor/. Accessed March 31, 2015.