Definition

Hyperosmolar nonketotic state (HHS) or coma happens in people with diabetes. It is a severe event that needs care.

Causes

HHS is caused by very high glucose in the blood. It is often set off by an illness or infection. It can also happen if the diabetes treatment plan is not followed. The body passes extra glucose out in the urine. Too much urine will lower the levels of other important things in the body such as water. This can make it hard for the brain and heart to work.

Risk Factors

HHS can happen at any age. It is more common in older adults and people with type 2 diabetes. Other things that may increase the chance of HHS are:

Symptoms

HHS can take days or weeks to start. Warning signs of high blood glucose that leads to HHS are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Peeing often
  • Thirst
  • Warm, dry skin without sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • Seizures
  • High fever
  • Sleepiness
  • Vision loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Weakness

Diagnosis

Tests for HHS may include:

  • Blood tests—to check levels of glucose and other things in your blood
  • Urine tests for glucose and ketones
  • Tests look for signs of infection

The heart may also be checked. An EKG can check your heart's electrical activity.

Electrocardiogram
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Treatment

Hospital care will be needed. The goal is to replace fluids and minerals that are low. Glucose will also be brought to normal levels. Treatment may include:

  • Fluids and minerals through an IV
  • Insulin through an IV—to help the body better use glucose in blood

Other treatment may be needed if there is an infection.

Prevention

To help prevent HHS:

  • Check blood glucose levels as told.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  • Make a care plan with your medical team. It should include how to handle diabetes when you are sick.

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