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Diabetes and Hallucinations

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 14, 2020

If you have type 2 diabetes, it's important to keep your blood sugar in check. Along with checking your sugar levels regularly, you should be aware of the signs that it may be running high. High blood sugar may cause you to feel thirsty, tired, or nauseated.

If it gets extremely high, you might have hallucinations. You need medical help right away if your blood sugar is very high.

Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Syndrome

If your blood sugar is higher than 600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), you have a condition called diabetic hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome. In an effort to cope with too much sugar in your bloodstream, your body releases it into your urine and takes lots of fluids away along with it. You need treatment quickly to get hydrated so you don't get seriously dehydrated. At worst, you could end up in a coma or even die.

Hallucinations -- when you see and or hear things that aren't there -- are one sign of this syndrome. When you're very dehydrated, the balance of essential minerals in your body (called electrolytes) gets out of whack. That can affect the communication between your brain cells and lead to hallucinations. Once your doctor is able to rehydrate you and lower your blood sugar, the hallucinations will end.

If you have hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome, you might also:

  • Feel very thirsty
  • Need to pee often
  • Have a fever
  • Have blurry vision
  • Feel weak or be unable to move parts of your body
  • Pass out

Although hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome isn’t common, anyone with any kind of diabetes can get it. But people with type 2 diabetes are most likely to. The risk is highest for those with type 2 who also:

  • Are over 60
  • Are African American, Native American, or Hispanic
  • Have another health issue (like a heart condition)

Treatment and Prevention

If you have hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome, hospital doctors will treat you with:

  • IV fluids
  • Electrolytes to replace those lost due to dehydration
  • Insulin to bring your blood sugar down

The best way to prevent hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome is to keep your blood sugar under control. To do that, keep track of your blood sugar and follow your doctor's recommendations for treatment and a healthy lifestyle.

Helping Someone Who Is Hallucinating

A person who is having hallucinations may see, hear, or feel things that aren't there. The hallucinations can seem very real. This can very be upsetting to them.

If you're with someone you suspect may have hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome, call 911 right away. Try to stay calm and comfort them. If possible, the affected person should drink a lot of water while waiting for help.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Syndrome."

Georgia Tech News Center: "Dehydration Alters Human Brain Shape and Activity, Slackens Task Performance."

Mayo Clinic: "Diabetic Coma," "Diabetic Ketoacidosis."

StatPearls: "Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Coma (HHNC, Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome)

HeretoHelp: "Psychosis Symptoms and What to Do."

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