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Definition

What is diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome?

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome is a serious condition caused by extremely high blood sugar levels. As a result of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome, your body tries to rid itself of the excess blood sugar by passing it into your urine. Left untreated, diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome can lead to life-threatening dehydration. Prompt medical care is essential.

How common is diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome?

The condition most commonly occurs in people with type 2 diabetes. It’s often triggered by illness or infection. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome?

The common symptoms of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome are:

  • Blood sugar level of 600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or 33.3 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) or higher
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased urination
  • Warm, dry skin
  • Fever
  • Drowsiness, confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Vision loss
  • Convulsions
  • Coma

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Your blood sugar is persistently higher than the target range your doctor recommends
  • You have signs or symptoms of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome, such as:
    • Excessive thirst
    • Increased urination
    • Warm, dry skin
    • Dry mouth
    • Fever

Seek emergency care if:

Your blood sugar level is 400 mg/dL (22.2 mmol/L) or higher and doesn’t improve despite following your doctor’s instructions for treatment. Don’t wait until your blood sugar is high enough to cause diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.

You have confusion, vision changes or other signs of dehydration.

Causes

What causes diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome?

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome may be triggered by:

  • Illness or infection
  • Not following a diabetes treatment plan or having an inadequate treatment plan
  • Certain medications, such as water pills (diuretics)

Sometimes undiagnosed diabetes results in diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome?

There are many risk factors for diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome, such as:

  • A stressful event such as infection, heart attack, stroke, or recent surgery
  • Heart failure
  • Impaired thirst
  • Limited access to water (especially in people with dementia or who are bedbound)
  • Older age
  • Poor kidney function
  • Poor management of diabetes, not following the treatment plan as directed
  • Stopping insulin or other medicines that lower glucose level

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome diagnosed?

The health care provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms and medical history. The exam may show that you have:

  • Extreme dehydration
  • Fever higher than 38°C
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low systolic blood pressure

Test that may be done include:

  • Blood osmolarity (concentration)
  • BUN and creatinine levels
  • Blood sodium level
  • Ketone test
  • Blood glucose

Evaluation for possible causes may include:

  • Blood cultures
  • Chest x-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Urinalysis

How is diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome treated?

Emergency treatment can correct diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome within hours. Treatment typically includes:

  • Intravenous fluids to counter dehydration
  • Intravenous insulin to lower your blood sugar levels
  • Intravenous potassium, and occasionally sodium phosphate replacement to help your cells function correctly

If you have an infection, or an underlying health condition, such as congestive heart failure or kidney disease, these conditions will be treated, as well.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome:

  • Know the symptoms of high blood sugar. Be alert for the warning symptoms of high blood sugar, as well as the situations that put you at risk of developing hyperosmolar syndrome, such as illness or infections.
  • Monitor your blood sugar level. Monitoring will help you stay in your target range and alert you to dangerous highs. Ask your doctor how often you should test your blood sugar. Monitor more often when you’re sick.
  • When you’re sick, drink plenty of liquids. Drink a glass of nonalcoholic, caffeine-free beverage hourly until you can ask your doctor for advice.
  • Follow your diabetes management plan. Eat nutritious meals, take medications as directed and exercise regularly.
  • Educate your loved ones, friends and co-workers. Teach people you spend time with to recognize early signs and symptoms of blood sugar extremes — and to summon emergency help if you pass out.
  • Wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace. If you’re unconscious, the ID can provide valuable information to others, including emergency personnel.
  • Stay current on vaccinations. Get an annual flu shot and ask your doctor if you need the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against some forms of pneumonia.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 9, 2017 | Last Modified: October 9, 2017

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