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 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.
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