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What is a Diabetic Seizure?

By Alex Terris
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Diabetes is known to cause a number of severe problems, including seizures and comas. A diabetic seizure occurs when the body receives a number of different signals from the brain that happen at the same time and contradict each other. Seizures in general can be caused by a number of different problems, including high or low blood glucose levels. A seizure is a serious condition and can result in death in some cases.

Although a person may be alert during a diabetic seizure, he or she often will not be fully aware of what is going on. For this reason, it can be difficult for surrounding people to know how to treat the condition, since the person having the seizure cannot provide any advice. Emergency medical officials should be contacted immediately, unless the person caring for the patient is experienced and knows how to handle the problem.

There are a number of different symptoms of a diabetic seizure caused by high or low blood glucose levels. The seizure often induces violent and sudden convulsions although these aren’t always present. Muscle weakness, confusion, sweating and a lack of awareness are other common signs. There are a large number of different types of seizures which are categorized according to the type of symptoms they induce. Many of these seizures have unknown causes.

Some types of seizures may not induce the shaking and convulsions which many people associate with the problem. For example, a seizure can cause the person to smell a strange scent when no on else can or suffer from alterations in his or her vision. Sometimes a seizure will last for no longer than a few seconds, while other times it will not stop on its own.

A common mistake among people trying to treat a diabetic seizure for low blood glucose levels is to attempt to feed the person. This can cause additional problems as the person is unaware of his or her surroundings and hence is more likely to choke in the food. If glucagon is available then this should be given straight away.

A diabetic coma can be caused by extremely low- or high-blood glucose levels and results in a state of complete unconsciousness. When a person enters a diabetic coma then the risk of death is severe and hence the emergency services should be contacted immediately. If a coma is caused by low glucose levels then this is sometimes called insulin shock.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1004629 — On Mar 18, 2021

The day before Christmas 2020, my neighbor asked me to come over for cookies and coffee. When I arrived she was having a severe, violent seizure. In this horrible situation I picked her up three times, one of which I was knocked down and beat up. Regardless I managed to płace her In her dining room chair beside her kitchen a few feet away and gave her some aspirin to prevent a stroke. She kicked me in my abdomen where I have a football size umbilica and mesh implant on recall. My knee and leg are also damaged. I called the paramedics after I was able to grab the phone and remove the butcher knife close to her. The paramedics arrived and her blood sugar was 35. They told me I saved her life.

The bad news is she wanted me not to tell my doctor, or family, or anyone that she beat me up and told me to get over it. Two weeks ago I called my doctor and told my daughter and brother what happened and about her nasty, ungrateful attitude. I have no insurance, am still undergoing treatment and can hardly walk.

By literally45 — On Jan 04, 2013

@ZipLine-- I don't think that someone who doesn't know the individual and their health background would be able to tell apart a diabetic seizure and an epilepsy seizure. You are right in that they look very similar. I guess the only way to know would be to check the person's blood sugar before the seizure takes place which isn't possible in an emergency.

Both diabetic and epileptic seizures show the same signs. There can be loss of awareness or consciousness, convulsions, confusion, difficulty speaking and swallowing, shaking and eyes can be rolled back.

Regardless of what the seizure may be, bystanders should call 911 and let the medical professionals take care of it.

By ZipLine — On Jan 03, 2013

It sounds like a diabetic seizure and an epilepsy seizure look similar. How can a by-stander tell them apart?

By ddljohn — On Jan 03, 2013

I'm a type 2 diabetic and although I've never had a diabetic seizure, I have come close a couple of times. Both times, I was very active and did not have enough to eat. I was fine and then suddenly, within about thirty seconds I started feeling terrible. I was dizzy, nauseated, tired and felt like I would faint.

I was lucky to have people around me who knew my condition and they have me something sweet right away to bring up my blood sugar. It took me several hours to recuperate but I was fine.

Now, I'm so scared that this might repeat and lead to a diabetic seizure that I always carry glucose tablets with me. I don't go anywhere without my blood measuring tool and glucose tablets. I'm also wearing a medical bracelet that says I have diabetes for emergencies.

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