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Clinical Overview
Diagnosis and Treatment

Diabetic Hyperosmolar Syndrome

Clinical Overview
Reviewed by Michael Fuller, MD

Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome develops when blood sugar is very high, and the body begins filtering massive quantities of fluid out of the body. It can cause severe dehydration, loss of consciousness, brain damage, or death.

When blood sugar spikes to very elevated levels, the body begins filtering sugar from the blood in a process that leads to excessive dehydration.

The signs and symptoms of diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome include:

  • High blood sugar level
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry, parched mouth
  • Increased urination
  • Warm, dry skin with no sweating
  • Racing or rapid pulse
  • Breathlessness with exertion
  • Sleepiness and fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Thick, syrupy blood (when tested)

    Often, diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome is caused by an underlying infection, possibly a urinary tract infection or pneumonia. Medications with diuretic effects, substance abuse, undiagnosed diabetes or failure to follow a consistent treatment plan can also be causes.

    While most common in undiagnosed people with type 2 diabetes or type 2 patients who are unwilling or unable to follow a treatment plan, it is also a possibility in type 1 diabetes.

    Last updated: Dec-17-07

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