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Diabetic Emergencies

People with diabetes mellitus can suffer the acute complications of hypoglycaemia (blood sugar too low) or hyperglycaemia (blood sugar too high). either of which may lead to unconsciousness. Their symptoms and signs are otherwise quite different. Most diabetics carry a card or wear a MedicAlert bracelet supplying information about their illness and what to do if these complications occur.

Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemio)

Hypoglycaemia may develop when a diabetic receives too much insulin or does not eat enough after an insulin dose. As hypoglycaemia develops. behaviour may resemble drunkenness.

Signs and symptoms

  • hunger, sweating, nervousness, tremor (these are early symptoms)
  • rapid pulse, palpitations
  • pale, sweaty skin
  • tingling around the mouth
  • faintness, giddiness, staggering
  • slurred speech, visual disturbance
  • mental confusion and perhaps aggressive
  • behaviour
  • weakness
  • seizures
  • unconsciousness

First aid treatment for low blood sugar

  1. If the person is unconscious do not give anything by mouth; place in the lateral position and check the airway breathing and pulse.
  2. Seek medical aid immediately.
  3. If the person is conscious give some sugar in the form of lemonade or a glass of water containing 2 teaspoons of sugar or 4 jellybeans (or whatever the warning card recommends).
  4. Once the person feels better (usually a few minutes.after having the sugar) give some complex carbohydrates such as a banana or sandwich.
  5. Encourage the person to consult a doctor about the episode so that its possible causes can be avoided in future.

High blood sugor (hyperglycoemio)

Hyperglycaemia may develop when a dose of insulin is forgotten or is too small for the patient needs at that time. Symptoms develop slowly but may progress to coma.

Signs and symptoms

  • extreme thirst
  • frequent need to pass urine
  • tiredness, sleepiness
  • dry, flushed skin
  • rapid pulse
  • blurred vision
  • nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • sweetish, acetone odour on the breath
  • unconsciousness

First aid treatment for high blood sugar

  1. If the person is unconscious, do not give anything by mouth: place in the lateral position and check the airway, breathing and pulse regularly.
  2. Seek medical aid urgently.

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