Diabetic Hyperosmolar Syndrome

What is Diabetic Hyperosmolar Syndrome?

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome is a serious complication that is sometimes experienced by diabetic patients, most commonly those with type 2 diabetes. It occurs when the body consistently produces dangerously high blood sugar levels. As a result, the body attempts to flush out the excess blood sugar through increased urination. If it is not treated, it can become life threatening or even fatal.

While the condition often develops in response to an infection or illness, it can also be caused by certain medications – including corticosteroids, diuretics, and anti-seizure drugs – and failure to follow an adequate diabetic treatment plan. Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome can also appear as a result of undiagnosed diabetes. Patients are more likely to experience it if they are over age 65 with a chronic health condition in addition to diabetes.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Hyperosmolar Syndrome?

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome develops over a period of several days or even weeks.

Symptoms include

  • Persistent high blood sugar
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fever
  • Increased urination
  • Warm dry skin
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Drowsiness
  • Vision loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma

Additionally, the condition can lead to serious complications such as shock, stroke, blood clots, brain swelling, heart attack, and seizures.

How is Diabetic Hyperosmolar Syndrome Treated?

Prompt medical care is essential to preventing diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome from becoming a threat to the patient’s life. At the beginning, the focus will be on treating the loss of water. By simply doing this, blood pressure will improve, as will circulation and urination habits. It will also help blood sugar levels return to normal. To do so, potassium, insulin, and fluids are given intravenously. The condition can usually be corrected within a few hours.

Afterwards, any underlying medical conditions and infections that are determined to have contributed to the onset of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome will be treated as well to prevent recurring episodes.

Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
September 06, 2017