Definition of Coma, diabetic

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Coma, diabetic: Coma in a diabetic due to the buildup of ketones in the bloodstream. Ketones are a product of metabolizing (using) fats rather than the sugar glucose for energy.

The best approach to diabetic coma is prevention. Careful diet, medication, and insulin dosing as needed should prevent ketone build-up.

Patients with diabetes and their family members should be aware of the early signs of ketone build-up. These include weight loss, nausea, confusion, gasping for breath, and a characteristically sweet, chemical odor similar to that of acetone or alcohol ("acetone breath") to the patient's breath and sometimes sweat. Diabetic coma may be heralded by confusion and convulsions.

Immediate emergency medical treatment is needed in a hospital setting for patients who show the early signs of diabetic coma.


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