Doctor's Notes on Insulin Reaction
An insulin reaction occurs when a person with diabetes becomes confused or unconscious due to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) caused by insulin or oral diabetic medications. In people with diabetes, the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to meet the body's demand and treatment may include oral hypoglycemics, insulin, or both. A common cause of an insulin reaction (or hypoglycemia) is a missed meal. Other causes for insulin reaction include exercise and medication error.
Mild symptoms of insulin reaction include
Moderate symptoms of insulin reaction include
- headache, and
- poor coordination.
Severe symptoms of insulin reaction include
- stroke-like symptoms, and
- hypothermia (low body temperature) if the hypoglycemia persists for a prolonged period of time.
What Is the Treatment for Insulin Reaction?
Most people with diabetes or their families can recognize the early symptoms of an insulin reaction due to low blood sugar and it may be self-treated if it is not severe. Immediately drink something with sugar (juices, regular soda, or sugar water). Glucose tablets can also provide instant sugar into the bloodstream.
If symptoms of an insulin reaction are severe and the diabetic person is unconscious or has difficulty staying awake, do not put food or drink into an unconscious person's mouth because there is a risk it will go into the lungs and cause pneumonia. If a person is not responsive enough to take fluids or food, call 9-1-1 right away. If the patient has a glucagon pen (injectable glucagon device), administer it.
Emergency personnel may start an intravenous line (IV) and inject a highly concentrated glucose solution. If the patient takes long-acting insulin or oral hypoglycemic medication, the IV line may be left in place and dextrose (a type of sugar) solution may be continually infused.
Most patients successfully treated for low blood sugar from an insulin reaction are able to be discharged home after a short observation period. Some patients who wake up quickly and have the ability to monitor their glucose levels and have someone that can watch over them may not need to be transferred to the hospital.
Some cases of low blood glucose from an insulin reaction happen because of other complicating medical issues. Elderly, chronically ill, or fragile patients may need to be admitted to the hospital for further evaluation and treatment.
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Diabetic ReactionThere are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. There are two types of diabetic reactions; low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Symptoms of hypoglycemia include: dizziness; headache; rapid onset of cool, pale, moist, and clammy skin; rapid pulse; and shallow breathing. Treatment is to have the person with diabetes suffering the reaction eat or drink something with sugar such as juice, candy, or another sweet substance. Hyperglycemia is less common and the symptoms can occur over several days. Medical treatment is generally needed.
How Do I Know If I Am Insulin Resistant?Insulin resistance, a hallmark of diabetes and prediabetes, is characterized by intense thirst, increased urination, fatigue, dizziness and blurred vision.
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is caused by overmedication, use of certain medications, use of alcohol, missed meals, kidney or liver infection, and more. Common symptoms of hypoglycemia include: trembling, clammy skin, palpitations, anxiety, sweating, hunger, and irritability. Treatment of hypoglycemia in a person with diabetes is glucose (sugar). If the cause is another disease or condition, treatment will depend on the cause of the hypoglycemia.
Insulin ResistanceInsulin resistance is a condition associated with several other conditions as well as a genetic component. Some of the conditions associated with insulin resistance include: the metabolic syndrome, stress, obesity, steroid use, or infection. Treatment of insulin resistance include lifestyle modifications (diet and exercise) and if necessary, medications.
What Are the Five Types of Insulin?Insulin is used to treat diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin and they need insulin injections so the body can use the glucose from meals. The five types are rapid-acting, regular/short-acting, intermediate-acting, long acting and ultra long-acting.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.