Insulin Shock Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Diabetes has become a national epidemic. Recently, Tom Hanks made it known that he has Type two diabetes. As a comedian he made light of his condition, but if you or someone you know has diabetes, you know it is nothing to joke about.

Approximately twenty six million people in the United States alone have diabetes, and the number is growing. The consequences of not taking diabetes seriously are far too great. Diabetes can manifest into an even more debilitating condition if left uncontrolled, including blindness, foot or leg amputation, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure.

Low blood sugar has become an increasingly common problem in the diabetic community. Those with more severe cases of diabetes have a significantly higher chance of experiencing low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can lead to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia occurs when glucose levels fall too low; this in turn can cause what is known as insulin shock a serious and potentially fatal condition.

What exactly is insulin shock?

Insulin shock is a severe form of hypoglycemia, and it occurs when blood sugar levels drop too quickly. Insulin shock is considered a diabetes emergency if left untreated convulsions or a coma are inevitable, and it can be fatal.


*Two of the most common causes of abnormally low blood sugar are excessive insulin or a poor diet. Other causes include:

  • Consuming alcohol
  • Eating too little
  • Excessive exercise
  • Interactions or the introduction of new medications
  • Not sticking to a schedule for both meal timing and regular exercise
  • Skipping meals
  • Stress
  • Too much insulin
  • Unknown factors such as age related or illness

*Are all susceptible to hypoglycemia

Symptoms and Warning Signs

*Symptoms can progress to the next stage quickly. If these symptoms are left untreated, insulin shock can lead to seizures, coma or death. A word of caution, an individual going into hypoglycemia can appear to be drunk.

  • Aggressive
  • Disoriented
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Hungry
  • Inability to speak clearly
  • Increased heart rate
  • Moodiness
  • Nervousness
  • Pale skin
  • Rendered unconscious
  • Shakes
  • Stumble
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weakness

Steps to take if it happens

*It is extremely important to bring sugar levels up within a normal range quickly. At this time artificial sweeteners should be avoided. High fats should be avoided as well, due to their slower rate of absorption.

  • Drink fruit juice, apple juice or pineapple juice
  • Soda or milk
  • Suck on hard candy or consume sugary carbohydrates

These suggestions can assist in bringing up the glucose levels rapidly. After glucose levels are up, they can burn off rather quickly, and the person needs to eat a sandwich or a solid meal as soon as possible.

Insulin Shock Emergency

*If the above steps have not been done in a timely fashion, then what occurs next is a diabetic emergency.

When insulin shock occurs, a person loses consciousness, and the brain no longer receives the proper nutrients it needs. Oxygen and blood supply are being cut off to the brain and time becomes crucial.

At this time a glucagon injection needs to be administered to help bring blood glucose levels within a safe range, and the individual should regain consciousness. If an injection is not available or the attack becomes too severe, 911 should be called for additional help. Insulin shock is considered an emergency, valuable time should not be lost and steps must be taken immediately.

Prevention and Safety Tips

*Prevention is the key to avoiding insulin shock. Individuals who know the early warning signs of hypoglycemia are have a better chance of avoiding insulin shock.

  • Be aware of the signs
  • Test glucose levels frequently
  • Stick to a regular schedule for meals, exercise and medications
  • Consume smaller meals frequently throughout the day
  • Consider purchasing glucose tablets from the pharmacy to have on hand
  • Lifesavers candies are easy to transport and easy to locate
  • Wear an ID bracelet
  • Carry a card in your wallet or hand bag with necessary medical information
  • Encourage friends and family to be aware in the event that you can’t help yourself
  • Meet regularly with your doctor to monitor and report lows

When you are aware that you have diabetes, your first line of defense should be taking proper care of yourself. Gaining control over your diabetes rather than letting it have control will prevent future complications. Why let it get out of control when in most cases insulin shock can be avoided.

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