Diabetes and Seizures: Know Signs, Causes, Related Complications and Treatment

Hyperglycemia is also called high blood glucose. Even though it’s a common diabetic complication, hyperglycemia may occur to anybody. If left unmanaged, high blood glucose may give rise to hyperglycemia-associated seizures. Approximately 25% of diabetics would experience seizures. Frequently, these occur due to low blood glucose. On the other hand, if left managed, hyperglycemia may also produce seizures. Read on to know about these seizures and how to avoid them below.

Can High or Low Blood Sugar Cause a Seizure

Epilepsy is a neurological problem having only one visible sign i.e., recurrent convulsions or seizures, the seriousness of which might differ from individual to individual. While the diagnosis of epilepsy is done during childhood, it might develop at any age, even in individuals who are above 65 years of age.

It is likely for individuals having type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes together with epilepsy, however, the association between epilepsy and diabetes is indistinct.

How Do Diabetes Seizures Occur?

Seizures occur when there is an excess of electrical activity in neuronal groups present in the brain. There are 2 major types of seizures including focal and generalized.

  • Generalized seizures take place when huge regions on both sides of the brain are influenced by disturbances in their usual activity. Perception might frequently be lost during generalized seizures.
  • In focal seizures, a particular area of the brain gets affected, in addition, awareness might be modified, it is not always lost. Focal seizures might frequently exist as if an individual is daydreaming.

Most times individuals get well rapidly from seizures, which usually finish within some minutes. However, recurrent seizures might seriously limit an individual’s standard of living, for instance, individuals might be avoided from driving and few may need regular management.

A diabetic seizure is a severe health problem and no emergency treatment is needed, it has been established to be deadly. Intensely low glucose levels in the diabetic’s blood result in seizures. For this reason, diabetics need to monitor and regulate the levels of blood glucose.

What are the Causes of Diabetic Seizures ?

Several diverse things might result in a diabetic seizure taking place. It could occur as an excess of insulin is injected, or as the person with diabetes did not consume right after using insulin. A few of the other likely reasons may involve not consuming meals repeatedly or drinking an excess of alcohol. Even several oral anti-diabetes medicines might make the body produce too much insulin. People who are exercising excessively without taking into consideration how this would influence their insulin levels would also be at a higher risk of experiencing a diabetic stroke. Regardless of the reasons behind the seizure, it is always a medical emergency as well as people who require an instant medical help.

What are the Signs of Diabetic Seizures?

While entering the initial phases of a diabetic seizure, an individual might exhibit several diverse signs. A few of the most common signs may involve:

  • Sweating
  • Stickiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking
  • Hallucinations
  • Rapid and unanticipated emotional alterations
  • Vision alterations
  • Inability to speak clearly

After these early signs, the next stage of signs starts and the danger level elevates. Now, the individual might stare into space and be non-communicative as well as overpowering body contractions and movements of the muscles can take place. In a few instances, the diabetic person would be unconscious about the movements and might even fall into forgetfulness.

Diabetes and Seizures

Seizures that occur due to diabetes, particularly in the presence of very low glucose levels, are called non-epileptic seizures. It is most likely for individuals to have both diabetes and epilepsy, and this might bring certain challenges in identifying whether the convulsions are associated with epilepsy or blood glucose levels. The signs of seizures might be similar in diabetes and epilepsy; however, the major difference is that a seizure resulting due to hypoglycemia might cause a diabetic patient to fall into a coma if remains untreated immediately.

When blood glucose is intensely high because of hyperglycemia, it might result in overstimulation of the neurons present in the brain. This might cause the brain to “short circuit,” giving rise to a seizure. It’s greatest to interfere with high blood glucose prior to sugar becoming high enough to cause a seizure. On the other hand, frequently individuals don’t observe the signs of hyperglycemia until a seizure is about to happen.

Types of Hyperglycemia Resulting in Seizures

Two types of hyperglycemia can result in seizures. These involve:

  • Nonketotic hyperglycemia
  • Ketotic hyperglycemia

Nonketotic hyperglycemia

One of the most common reasons for seizures associated with high blood glucose is nonketotic hyperglycemia (NKH). This is also termed hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome (HHS). This condition frequently takes place in type 2 diabetics; however, it may take place in non-diabetics. In this condition, the levels of blood glucose reach 10 times higher as compared to healthy levels. The blood also becomes too much concentrated with salt and sugar, which may influence the working of key body organs, such as the brain. Up to 25% of individuals having the issue of NKH would have a seizure.

NKH takes place frequently in older individuals having type 2 diabetes. Risk factors may involve:

  • Infection or other diseases
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Skipping or avoiding anti-diabetes drug
  • Cardiovascular disorder

Roughly, half of the individuals who experience a seizure because of NKH would die. It’s vital to directly look for help if a person notices any alteration in the level of consciousness or if a person gets an irregularly high reading while testing the blood sugar level.

Ketotic Hyperglycemia

It is the 2nd type of hyperglycemia that might bring about seizures. This occurs most commonly in individuals having type 1 diabetes. When there is a rise in the levels of blood glucose, the body fails to use it for fuel. Rather, it begins to burn fat. As the fat gets burned, chemicals named ketones are released into the bloodstream. When there is an accumulation of these ketones in high concentrations, they may also turn poisonous, converting the blood acidic. This is known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). People having DKA are at a greater risk of seizures.

Are Diabetics More Expected to Have Epilepsy?

Many research studies have established diabetes and its association with epilepsy, with much of the research concentrating upon type 1 diabetes. A 2016 study found that individuals having type 1 diabetes were 2.84 times more expected to develop epilepsy as compared to people without type 1 diabetes. Researchers fail to understand and comment why individuals having type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk of experiencing epilepsy. One theory behind this query is that autoimmunity might be involved, whereas it’s also been proposed that extended high blood glucose levels might enhance the possibility of seizures. These theories are yet to be sufficiently tested and verified, nonetheless. In 2012, there were a group of Italian scientists who assessed these underlying mechanisms in a review, who was titled: Seizures and type 1 diabetes mellitus: current state of knowledge.

Related Complications Due to Diabetes Seizures in Adults

Hyperglycemia, chiefly NKH, might bring about complications outside of resulting in seizures. Identifying these might assist a person in detecting NKH as well as potentially assist in avoiding the occurrence of a seizure by searching for a suitable treatment directly.

Complications associated with NKH may involve:

  • Nonketotic hyperglycemic hemichorea: In this condition, involuntary movements, such as twisting, writhing movements, and jerking of the limbs occur. In NKH, these signs appear quickly and might get resolved when insulin is administered to reduce the levels of blood glucose.
  • Nonketotic hyperosmolar coma: In In rare instances, NKH may cause an individual losing consciousness and fall to a state called a diabetic coma. Coma may produce irreversible brain damage, as a result, it becomes crucial to look for emergency treatment.

Treatment of Diabetes Seizures in Adults

Individuals having epilepsy are mostly treated using certain anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), which are planned to regulate seizures. Not every person experiencing epilepsy needs treatment. Brain surgery can also be required if a patient’s epilepsy remains poorly regulated after treatment using AEDs.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet, including eating a high-fat, low-carb diet to reduce the quantity of sugar and starch in the body, might be chiefly efficient in people having epilepsy and/or diabetes.

The diet is generally considered when a minimum of two AEDs has not had success in a patient. The diet is thought to lower down the chances of seizures by modifying the chemical composition of the brain.

Studies have indicated that a ketogenic diet might benefit diabetics. Whereas a ketogenic diet is usually safe in long-term studies, yet very-long-term studies should be done regarding the diet. Consequently, health experts still voice doubts over the lasting safety of individuals remaining in extended duration of ketosis. The diet must only ever be accepted after careful thought with the concerned doctor or health care team.

Summary

Getting a diabetic seizure might be scary, both for an individual who is seizing as well as for their loved ones. It might also cause long-term health complications. For hyperglycemia-associated seizures, prevention is truly the best medicine. Taking the medicines as per the doctor’s guidance, healthy diet, exercising, as well as maintaining regular doctor visits all assist in properly controlling the levels of blood glucose. At times, hyperglycemia or NKH might take place suddenly. These conditions might occur due to stress, infection, or ailment. Due to this, every person, particularly, diabetics must be aware of the early symptoms of hyperglycemia, such as too much thirst, frequent urination, as well as mental confusion.

FAQs:

Does diabetes result in brain damage?

Few of diabetes’ effects on the brain are not clear right away, particularly when they are associated with high levels of blood glucose. With diabetes, a person is at an increased risk of damage to blood vessels gradually, counting damage to the small blood vessels existing in the brain. This damage might influence the brain’s white matter as well.

How long can a person have a seizure prior to brain damage?

A seizure that persists longer than 5 minutes, or above one seizure occurs within 5 minutes, without going back to a normal level of awareness between incidents is considered to be called status epilepticus. This is a medical emergency leading to permanent brain damage or death.

Can Type 2 diabetes result in seizures?

Seizures that occur due to diabetes, remarkably if very low glucose levels take place, are known as non-epileptic seizures. It is likely for individuals to suffer both from diabetes and epilepsy, and this might present challenges while identifying whether the seizures are linked to epilepsy or blood sugar levels.

What to do if any person has a diabetic seizure?

Learn first aid for any person who is experiencing a diabetic emergency:

  • Give that person something sweet to consume or a non-diet beverage. If some person experiences a diabetic emergency, his or her blood glucose levels might get too low. This might even make him or her collapse.
  • Assure the person. Many individuals would slowly recover, but if in doubt, call 999.

What level of blood glucose results in seizures?

More serious signs including indistinct thinking or seizure, take place when the blood glucose is much lower (below 40 mg/dL or 2.2 mmol/L). Even though a person does not show any sign, his or her blood glucose could still be too low (condition named hypoglycemic unawareness).

Can juvenile diabetes result in seizures?

The youngest individuals having type 1 diabetes i.e., below 6 years of age, appeared to be 6 times more expected to develop epilepsy, the studies demonstrated. However, individuals having the greatest risk of epilepsy appeared to be children having type 1 diabetes who were to be treated in a hospital for seriously low blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

References:

  1. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/diabetes-and-epilepsy.html
  2. https://www.verywellhealth.com/hyperglycemic-seizures-5116629
  3. http://www.rscdiagnosticservices.com/blog/diabetic-seizures-what-are-they-symptoms-causes-and-treatments

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